Considering the Bengals' approach to free agency, (not going after big-name talent) they will have to restock some of the players they've lost in free agency through the draft. But, they only have seven picks to do so and it is arguably harder to find talent in the late rounds. Could it make sense for the Bengals to trade down or out of the first round in order to get more assets to replenish a squad that might be losing plenty of quality members?
The Bengals own the 24th pick in the 2016 draft, and they have done a good job of late at adding at least solid starters in the first round like cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall in 2006 and 2007, offensive tackle Andre Smith in 2009,
tight end Jermaine Gresham in 2010, wide receiver A.J. Green in 2011, guard Kevin Zeitler in 2012 and tight end Tyler Eifert in 2013. Some other players like cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard can still join those ranks, and the Bengals have been getting consistent production from their first round pick ever since drafting linebacker David Pollack in 2005, who was forced to retire after 16 games played.
That same number 24 pick has yielded some good players in the past, and Cincinnati picked Dennard in that spot two years ago and Joseph in 2006. Names like guard David DeCastro of the Steelers, defensive end Cameron Jordan of the Saints, wide receiver Dez Bryant of the Cowboys, running backs Chris Johnson of the Titans or Steven Johnson of the Rams, quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, tight end Dallas Clark of the Colts and safety Ed Reed of the Ravens prove that the 24th pick can be very valuable, even if it is not at the top of the draft.
Cincinnati could use a player of that caliber and I won't argue against standing with the pick and drafting the best talent available. But, they're also trying to win now and could have a lot of holes to plug after the first weeks of free agency. I'm aware of the Bengals' philosophy and generally agree with it, you don't want to over-rely on your first year players to produce much early on. If they play well, then play them. But, they've also been forced to start second round and third round picks right away, so would it make sense to get a few extra guys to help replace players who depart in free agency?
First of all, a trade down in the first round is not unusual, but we're not talking about an RGIII-like trade. The Bengals have the 24th pick, which is valuable, but far less valuable than a top 10 pick. In past years though, there have been plenty of teams willing to use some of their assets to move up a little bit, or, having already used their first round pick, to get back into the first round.
Last year the Broncos gave up their fifth-round pick and their 2016 fifth round selection, plus guard Manny Ramírez - a three-year starter with Denver - to move from the 28th spot to the 23rd. The Titans traded their second pick of the draft, which was almost a first rounder at pick No. 33, to the Giants for New York's second, fourth and seventh-round selections. In 2014 Philadelphia sent the 22nd pick to Cleveland for the 26th pick and a third-round selection. The masters of this strategy, the Patriots, gave their first-round pick in 2013 to Minnesota - it was number 29 - for the Vikings' second, third, fourth and seventh-round selections.
Now, this all comes down to the talent they draft. There is no guarantee a first-round pick is going to be a superstar or even better than a second-round selection, but the chances are higher. On the other hand, the draft is a lottery, and having more tickets gives you more chances of getting solid players. The Patriots acquired linebacker Jamie Collins and defensive back Logan Ryan with two of the Vikings' picks in 2013, but they used their own second-round pick on wide receiver Aaron Dobson.
I'd say, if the price is right and they miss out on bringing back some of their starters set to hit free agency, they can trade down or out of the first round and get some extra assets. There's the risk of missing on a top talent at the 24th spot, and the Bengals have gotten mixed results from their second and third-round selections, but with a lot of potential holes in their roster and Cincy's averseness to spending in the free agents market, adding a few more draft picks could be a valid strategy this offseason.