At this time of year in the NFL off-season, there are usually two camps of Bengals fans. The first are the people that understand the Bengals organization is not going to be one of the teams making a splash on day one of free agency. They are not going to overpay for a player that is going to command more money than they are probably worth in the open market.
The other group consists of people who think that if the Bengals just grab these one or two people in free agency it would prove they are trying. It would show that Mike Brown is not "pocketing money" in unused cap space and the Bengals are trying to win in the playoffs.
As a Bengal fan, this time of year can be frustrating. We clamor for any sort of football news and finally there are real things happening to NFL teams. Some look to be getting stronger, some look to be losing stars and some seem to stick to status quo. The Bengals fall into that last category every year.
So what have they done without these big free agent signings? They have gone to the playoffs four out of the last five years. They have built a roster that other teams covet. This is proven by the quickness that players that leave the Bengals get snatched up into other organizations. The Bengals are no longer the joke of an organization that they were in the past. Other NFL clubs understand it, some fans need to get on board.
To the argument about Mike Brown pocketing cap money because he is just cheap, I just sigh. This doesn't deserve a response, but I will at least throw out a couple of my thoughts. The Bengals do not get creative with their money / contracts. Some people wonder how other teams can manipulate the deals to sign players when the perceived space is not there. There are ways to structure deals to not take hits in certain seasons to allow for these signings, this is not the Bengals way of business. Just know that Mike Brown spent over 100 million in new contracts last year so maybe one persons definition of cheap means something different to me.
Last season, the Miami Dolphins were perceived to have won in free agency. They added a deep threat in Mike Wallace, they also added Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller to help move the ball. The Dolphins finished at 8-8 so the additions in free agency bought them one lone win from the previous season.
The Cleveland Browns also attempted to beef up their defense last season to match the resurgent offense they thought they would have. They added Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves and Desmond Bryant. This overspending got the Browns a 4-12 record from their 5-11 the previous season.
The Tennessee Titans also were a team perceived to make a huge stride in free agency last season. Running back Shonn Green, tight end Delanie Walker and defensive tackle Sammie Hill. These were the players that were going to help the Titans rebound from their 6-10 season the year before. Well, it worked. The Titans finished with an impressive 7-9 just missing the playoffs by about three wins.
One team that Bengals fans are very familiar with is the Pittsburgh Steelers. This organization is the model franchise for building in the draft, allowing players to move on and filling in with the next man up philosophy. This is also the team with the most Super Bowl wins all time. Would you prefer the Bengals model themselves after the teams that always try and make a splash in free agency (Cleveland) or enjoy the success that comes with drafting and developing their own players (Steelers)?
I, for one, am fine with what the Bengals have (or have not) done in free agency so far. Would I have liked to keep Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins in stripes? Yeah. Do I care if Andrew Hawkins were to leave? Not really. It would be cool to sign the top safety available, have him wreck it in the secondary for years and have 4 Super Bowl rings to show for it, but honestly, we all know that isn't how this works.
No matter what side of the fence you fall on, there is room for debate about what the Bengals should do. Just make sure you have some evidence to back up your argument. If at the end of last season you were screaming that Andy Dalton was the reason this team lost, don't come at me now with the argument that a big free agent corner is the missing link.