The Cincinnati Bengals waited for a few days before becoming active in free agency. Their first signing was veteran guard Travelle Wharton and after that they signed a handful of players including running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, cornerback Jason Allen and pass rushers Derrick Harvey and Jamaal Anderson. They also re-signed a handful of their own players as well, including free safety Reggie Nelson and defensive tackle Pat Sims.
So far, Bengals fans are pretty happy. The team didn't sign any big-named guys, but they have managed to strengthen their team for the 2012 season. However, Sports Illustrated's Peter King isn't so sure that we should be celebrating what the Bengals have done.
I think if I'm a Bengals fan, and I'm trying to analyze what they're doing in free agency, the conclusion I would come to is this: They are plumbing the depths of the lower-middle-class and seeing what, if anything, sticks. Derrick Harvey and Jamaal Anderson are two of the most disappointing highly drafted pass-rushers in recent years. Check out their stat line on profootballfocus.com. In the last two seasons, Anderson and Harvey have combined for eight sacks and 34 pressures in 1,307 combined defensive plays.
Imagine getting drafted in the first round, and barely producing, and there are the Bengals, with a nice soft landing spot. The only saving grace is the money, which is minor.
I'm not crazy about Cincy giving $3 million a year for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is not a make-them-miss runner and whose biggest attributes are that he catches the ball well and doesn't fumble. But he's a good, unselfish guy to have on the roster.
It's true, the Bengals didn't sign a guy like Mario Williams, Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan. Spending a large sum of money, even if they have it, has never been their style, especially when they aren't forced to spend it. Maybe in 2013, when forced spending begins, the Bengals may drop more money on bigger named players, but nobody can be surprised about the way they've handled free agency so far.
However, in the end, Wharton will improve the offensive line, Green-Ellis improves the backfield, and Harvey and Anderson have a lot of potential and can possibly contribute in a deep defensive line rotation under Mike Zimmer. The Bengals will always likely look to the draft to bring in the big players, and if you look back at the last few years, they've done a pretty good job at it.
So I'm still excited about what the Bengals have done so far this offseason. Wharton may not be Carl Nicks or Ben Grubbs, but he's also not Nate Livings or Mike McGlynn and if the 2011 Bengals can succeed with those two guys, there's no reason they can't succeed in 2012 with Wharton. The same goes for Green-Ellis over Benson and Allen over Kelly Jennings.
How do you feel about what the Bengals have done so far?