It's rare to come across an article with a drastically different viewpoint than that of the mainstream media. There are posts I enjoy written by highly decorated media and posts that fans throw together that really make me think. Rarely do I think about the Bengals from an agent's point of view. CBS Sports published a piece on the Bengals from Joel Corry, a former NFL agent's perspective, much of which had to do with contracts.
We all know Mike Brown has relinquished some control of the day-to-day operations of running the Bengals' football team. One of those areas has been filled by his daughter Katie Blackburn. She is no stranger to athletics; aside from growing up around a professional football team, she played ice hockey at Dartmouth college. Blackburn went on to graduate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. On the occasions when I have met with her, she also is extremely friendly and a fan of the site. (Side note: my profile picture is of the two of us.)
One thing Blackburn has done is bring a strong structure to player contracts and negotiations. She has a firm idea of how they should be structured and when they should be discussed. The Bengals are one of the better teams at signing their core players to contract extensions at the opportune time. (See: Andrew Whitworth, A.J. Green)
Rarely is a Bengals contract looked at in an unfavorable light toward the team. The nation gasped as the announcement came that the Bengals locked in Andy Dalton for $115 million over 6 years. Fans were on the ledge thinking the Bengals had financially doomed themselves and this signified the end for A.J. Green and Vontaze Burfict. Yet, at second glance, the contract paid fairly and afforded the Bengals the room to extend their other players. This was by design and executed by Blackburn.
The Bengals shy away from contracts with big guarantees. They offer signing and roster bonuses, but players are expected to play to get paid. (Kind of sounds like most jobs...) This is a model also shared by the Packers and Steelers, two franchises who enjoy continued success.
One interesting point from the CBS piece was "Cincinnati's lack of contract guarantees shouldn't be confused with frugality". This argument is still made in tailgate conversations and internet chat boards daily. Recently the Bengals have been fourth in spending and seventh in spending among all 32 NFL teams.
We always hear about cap room and it is usually answered on the nose by the Bengals own beat writer Geoff Hobson. People vilify him for towing the line, but the truth is, the Bengals do earmark money for extensions and end up spending that money on, surprise surprise, extensions. The contracts signed also favor the organization if the need arises to part ways with a player. This is a good thing. Chances are the color of your jersey means more than the name on the back. Fans follow teams, not players.
There have also been theories around why the Bengals struggle bringing in big name free agents. The truth behind that is they rarely guarantee money in their contracts. Fans get upset about the perceived lack of movement, but in actuality, it is smart business. The article compares the guaranteed money for Dalton, Green, Geno Atkins and Leon Hall and how that fails to compare to the guaranteed money that Ndamukong Suh got for moving to the Dolphins, and we all see how that is working out.
Maybe the Bengals know a little more than fans sitting on the couch after all.