Bengals Successfully Applying Offseason Game Plan

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals aren't in the business of making fans happy in March, only during the season. Will their offseason gameplan translate to success in September?

You didn't believe it.

Perhaps you didn't want to.

How could it follow a path of logical thinking? With enough money under the salary cap to supplement the defense department's budget cuts, the Bengals had the ammunition needed to make a good team even better through free agency. Right?

Not in their minds.

Since opening the offseason after another frustrating first-round finale during the playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals have made it rather clear that their free agency syllabus was staying within the organization; signing their own players that were scheduled to enter free agency as unrestricted free agents.

"We are planning to spend our cap money and we're hoping and we're intending to spend it on our own people," Bengals President Mike Brown told reporters during league meetings last week. "People we know, people we understand, people that we think will make this team get better. There is no single silver bullet."

There is no deception in this regard, no reason to get upset about the lack of moves, if you're reading into what the team believes will make their organization strong.

After Terence Newman reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year deal worth $5 million on Friday, the Bengals have signed 13 of their 23 unrestricted free agents, highlighted by a returning defense that's ranked in the top-seven in consecutive seasons and three out of the past four years. Returning defensive starters include Robert Geathers, Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson, and Newman along with starter-worthy backups like Adam Jones and Wallace Gilberry.

They've signed one non-Bengals free agent in quarterback Josh Johnson, who should compete with Zac Robinson and likely an added rookie for the backup job.

"We'll be in a competitive situation for our backup quarterbacks," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis during a press release, "and Josh is known to (Bengals offensive coordinator) Jay Gruden from when they were both with Tampa Bay. We like Josh’s ability and experience added to our mix."

Cincinnati showed reported interest in role players like Mike Goodson, Ted Ginn. Jr, and tight ends Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis; all of whom signed elsewhere.

There's one major issue that remains unresolved.

According to Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer, the status between the Bengals and Andre Smith doesn't suggest an agreement anytime soon, writing that "indications are neither side is close to a deal yet."

Since the Bengals have no known competition for negotiations with Smith, there's no logical reason for Cincinnati to force a deal that they're not comfortable with. And since there's no deadline prior to the NFL draft, both sides are taking their time; even if that means Bengals fans squirm for a conclusion (one way or the other).

The gap between the two sides is likely due to other deals around the league. We suspect that Smith and Ben Dogra (his agent) are emphasizing something closer to Jake Long's $34 million deal (with $14 million guaranteed) over four years as a benchmark. Cincinnati might be glued to something in the neighborhood of what Sebastian Vollmer signed with the New England Patriots. Adding to the gap is that Long is a left tackle whereas Vollmer, who signed a four-year deal is worth $17 million with $8.5 million guaranteed, plays the right side like Smith does. Vollmer's deal includes $10 million worth of incentives that maxes out at $27 million.

Less than a month remains before the NFL draft with free agency leaving one priority in Smith. People might be dismayed by the perceived lack of activity, but the Bengals set out to retain their own, and for the most part, they've done exactly that.

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