Some in the NFL media seem to be overlooking the Bengals' offseason. The latest media collective to underrate the Bengals' offseason comes at no surprise: ESPN gave Cincinnati an offseason grade of B-. Former Buccaneers executive Mark Dominik and former executive Bill Polian, who was just recently inducted into the Hall of Fame for his front office work, elaborated more on the Bengals' offseason grade, noting the team's strategy of stockpiling compensatory picks rather than overpaying to keep their own players.
Re-signed: WR Brandon Tate, FS George Iloka, CB Adam Jones, T Eric Winston, LB Vincent Rey, DT Pat Sims
Signed: S Taylor Mays, WR Brandon LaFell
Lost/cut: WR Marvin Jones, WR Mohamed Sanu, LB Emmanuel Lamur, T Andre Smith
The Bengals have established themselves as one of the effective draft-and-develop teams, which means their relative inactivity draws more knowing nods than criticism. Re-signing Iloka was a priority, but the Bengals still came away with a favorable contract structure, especially for the first year. Keeping Rey was another move that went over well. Adding LaFell from New England should not stop the Bengals from targeting a wide receiver in the draft.
"Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are two big losses," Polian said. "You'd like not to have lost both, but you cannot always do it. Marvin Jones got a helluva deal from Detroit. He is a good player."
The Bengals still have an elite receiving tight end (Tyler Eifert) and one of the game's most dynamic wide receivers (A.J. Green). That's a lot to build around.
"This is another team playing the compensatory game," Dominik said. "They have been so built through the draft, they have to let guys go. They will get two good comp picks. They tried to maintain. It's hard to punish them with a low grade for that."
Granted, ESPN had no clue that the Bengals acquired Karlos Dansby, but I'd still estimate ESPN handing Cincinnati a grade of just a B with the team's two latest additions. The Bengals rarely make flashy offseason moves, but they're still able to make moves every season.
The team's best move of the offseason was locking up George Iloka to a five year, $30 million deal. The Jaguars signed Tashaun Gipson to a bigger deal, and the Eagles signed Rodney McLeod to a bigger deal, but Iloka is arguably the best of the three safeties. That Cincinnati locked him up at such a reasonable price should amount to more than people gave the Bengals credit for.
Additionally, compiling what should amount to four compensatory picks in the process of losing Andre Smith, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Emmanuel Lamur will go overlooked, despite the executives bringing up that exact fact. Likely boasting 11 selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bengals will now have the flexibility to make a trade up or down in this year's draft, if that's what they want to do.
Analysts will continue to underrate Cincinnati's offseason moves, but ultimately offseason hype doesn't determine the quality of a roster. With an upgraded linebacking corps and a not-so-depleted wide receiving corps, the Bengals are now ready to enter this year's draft, with only one glaring need. If the Bengals can draft a serviceable wide receiver to pair with LaFell, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati's offense should be able to continue its dominance. And the defense, boosted by Karlos Dansby's coverage ability, should be even better than it was last season. That's scary.