As per the office of the NFL, of the 131 unrestricted free agents that signed with new clubs this season, the Bengals signed... one (Antwan Odom). The Dolphins picked up 10 UFA players while five clubs didn't sign anyone. And before someone goes into a diatribe about how the Bengals are cheap for not signing more free agents, it would seem to me that it could be a blessing that they held to their penny-pinching ways.
There just weren't guys out there that the Bengals could use without upsetting (or delaying) their drive for in-house development. Frankly, it's impossible to push back a player's development; unlike Major League Baseball. The age of modern free agency assured that. Whether you like it or not, that's been their philosophy with supplemental signings of established veterans. Furthermore, when you objectively consider market size (which DOES factor in the ability to sign players with or without a cap) the Bengals are like a majority of every small market club; beneath the Snyder and Jones's of the world; unable to convince a prime-time player because they can't afford over-paying ungodly guaranteed money -- and how many players choose Cincinnati over more money? It's a valid argument, though not the one that should be used by the Pro-Brown circles (the Bengals simply manage their contracts poorly). Additionally, the past two seasons we've seen some quality talent leave because the team won't re-sign them to contracts that spill more green than the putting surface at Torrey Pines. As a result, the Bengals acquired additional draft picks as compensation for letting Eric Steinbach, Kevin Kaesviharn, Tony Stewart, Kelly Washington and Anthony Wright walk while only signing Michael Myers. With Andre Caldwell, the Bengals drafted Matt Sherry, Mario Urrutia and Angelo Craig as compensatory picks. Whether they work out or not, I'll leave to the self-appointed fortune tellers of the world.
This year, the Bengals let Bryan Robinson (Arizona), Alex Stepanovich (Atlanta), Landon Johnson (Carolina), Madieu Williams (Minnesota) and Justin Smith (49ers) walk as UFA while only Odom as the team's only UFA (again, as per the NFL). The Odom signing was in large-part a reaction to losing Justin Smith -- while I'm ecstatic that we're not foolish enough to throw him gobs of money like the 49ers (aka, saved by penny-pinching), Odom is by far the better pass rusher. Though Smith's strengths were never so much about pass rushing as it was run defending -- and you see how well his contributions added to the defense overall. Not hating, just saying we're not likely to miss him much. And to be honest, we're not sure if restricted free agents affect a team's compensatory picks; for now, we'll say no because it looks so much better that the Bengals could find more gold with additional picks for the 2009 draft. Though, it would make more sense if compensatory picks were affected. Anywho...
Penny-pinching might be a blessing in disguise. When the season concludes, Stacy Andrews, John Thornton, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deltha O'Neal, Shayne Graham, Michael Myers, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eric Ghiaciuc, Rashad Jeanty will be free agents (and those are the guys that have a start under their NFL careers). Some are restricted, some unrestricted. We'd likely see a big accumlation of money that can be spent after this season, but that's not likely (we see the team re-signing their core guys to extensions rather than introducing new guys). Point is that they're going to need new deals or none at all. We figure that the Bengals will push for re-signing Andrews, Houshmandzadeh, Graham, Jeanty and Ghiaciuc. The first two will not be cheap and we figure that Andrews will be the highest-priority to get a long-term deal finalized (perhaps even before the season is over). Stripe Hype and I might even discuss if Houshmandzadeh will be here next season.
While it's still not likely that the Bengals are expected to win, they're likely to improve over last season -- and we shouldn't be surprised if they do in fact win. But this team is developing such a solid foundation with quality talent (and for those of you that put a premium on such things, "character guys") that if you can't find positives now (not saying that you should be mindlessly happy, but there ARE positives with the Cincinnati Bengals), then perhaps we should help you look for a team that (a) has a winning tradition and (b) has a front office acceptable to your liking.
Real quick: Chad Johnson settled his dispute with 30 patrons of the Funny Bone. On Wednesday Johnson and the comedy club agreed to pay $100,000 to the plaintiffs. Yea, now that $250,000 work out bonus you lost seems bigger now, doesn't it? Note: Kinda funny how I followed up my soap box speech with that!
- Bronson Arroyo is the best Major League Pitcher... ever. I tuned into last night's Reds game, saw the score, saw Arroyo gave up 10 runs on 11 hits recording just three outs, then watched Mannequin.
- The Bengals play the Indianapolis Colts during the final week of pre-season -- tickets go on sale Friday for those of you who wish to trek next door. Tickets range between $34-119. So if you want to pay good money for back up players (pray for one starter) playing without being paid (they don't get pre-season game checks), then this game is for you.
- Dr. Z picks the Vikings to win it all.
- Is Mike Holmgren a lame-duck coach? In one perspective, it certainly makes sense. On another, knowing a coach is leaving with his replacement already on the staff, learning, would make the transition as smooth as it gets -- considering that firing a coach usually puts a team and organization into temporary chaos.
- A long time ago, I hit a rough spot in my life. Spent nearly every day of two months at a local bar, drinking pretty heavily. The bar was within a 15 minute walk from my house, so I didn't have to worry about cars, DUIs, DWIs, or any of that. I still went to work (sober), did my job and no one was the wiser. My point is that I do not care what players or coaches do in their free time. Just don't affect team chemistry, your performances on the field and don't embarrass the city (aka, things that get you arrested). Otherwise, it's none of our business.
I honestly think that James Walker is over-stating the "chaos" with the Cincinnati Bengals. Calling the off-season chaotic, Walker goes on to simply talk of Johnson's character-suicide campaign. He grouped "chaos" with the Bengals third defensive coordinator in six seasons (would you agree with me that Mike Zimmer appears to be the right guy.. finally?). Additionally he includes "high-profile" cuts (Chris Henry, Odell Thurman) which should reverse the chaos perspective. After his 3/4th page run down of Chad Johnson and Oil Slick, Walker points out that Rudi Johnson is in "tremendous shape". Rudi has become my biggest "lookout for" story heading into the regular season.