Just like the NFL draft, it's often hard to truly gauge how good or bad an offseason is until at least a year has passed.
We're at the point in the offseason where NFL re-drafts and re-grades are a popular topic, but ESPN's Mike Sando took a different approach. He re-graded the 2015 offseason for all 32 teams and gave the Bengals a boost after originally giving them more of a 'meh' grade.
Offseason grade: C+
Some thought the Bengals needed to be more aggressive, but Cincinnati disproved that thinking. The Bengals' roster was so strong that the team might still be playing had quarterback Andy Dalton not suffered a thumb injury. Cincinnati got a league-low 745 snaps from its rookies -- and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Teams such as Denver, Carolina and Seattle also ranked near the bottom of that category, having rosters packed with players in their primes and few openings. Cincinnati worked the free-agency system beautifully in re-signing defensive end Michael Johnson a year after watching him collect a windfall from Tampa Bay. Those transactions one year apart allowed the Bengals to collect a compensatory draft choice in addition to signing Johnson at reasonable cost.
As Sando pointed out, getting defensive end Michael Johnson back after a failed stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a win for the team. His one year in Tampa was so bad that, at the time, re-signing him didn't seem like that big of a move (at least outside of Cincinnati), but Johnson would go on to have a solid 2015 season and showed he can still be an impact player on a great defense.
But maybe the biggest move of last offseason was re-signing linebacker Rey Maualuga. At the time, many, including myself, thought that was a bad move and validated giving that offseason a C+ grade. To that point, Maualuga had more often been a liability than a strength for Cincy's defense. However, the Bengals have learned how to effectively use Maualuga and put him in position to utilize his strengths and hide his weaknesses. That helped him have a good year and validate the contract Cincinnati gave him last offseason.
The Bengals also added A.J. Hawk to their linebacking corps., which helped Maualuga and the rest of the defense as well. That too was viewed as a 'meh' move as Hawk was an aging vet who had just been cut by the Green Bay Packers. He didn't play great in Cincinnati and rarely stood out on the defense, but he helped give relief to other linebackers and stepped up with added snaps when players like Vinny Rey and Emmanuel Lamur were briefly injured during games.
All of this shows why we cannot completely judge an offseason until after the following season has concluded. The Bengals ended up having a good offseason that was originally thought of as average at best. Hopefully, whatever the Bengals do this offseason ends up having a similar impact, even if it isn't viewed as a good offseason to begin with.