This offseason, the Bengals have been particularly unlucky when it comes to key people leaving the team in search of greener pastures or greater opportunities. From coaches to players, the Bengals have lost many of their biggest contributors from 2015 including offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, defensive line coach Jay Hayes, defensive backs coaches Vance Joseph and Mark Carrier as well as Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Wallace Gilberry to name just a handful of the losses. However, they've also made some really good moves to counteract some of that bad luck.
The way I see it, these have been the best moves of the offseason so far:
Re-signing George Iloka
This one is huge. Given the fact that the Bengals were unable to re-sign Reggie Nelson this offseason, keeping an established safety like Iloka around was a huge relief. There was speculation that he might sign with someone else this offseason, but ultimately he reached an agreement with the team and they locked him up through 2020. With all of the turnover that has happened this offseason, it was nice to retain Iloka.
Unfortunately, signing Iloka may have also brought the negative consequence of the team losing out on re-signing pro bowl safety and the NFL's 2015 interception leader, Reggie Nelson. Granted, Nelson will be 33 years old in September and is coming off of an ankle injury that could hinder his performance going forward. But, he was still a team leader and a productive player who will be missed. Luckily, the team has the talented Shawn Williams to fill in at free safety and retained the established George Iloka at strong safety.
Drafting Andrew Billings
One of the Bengals' most underrated needs this offseason was probably defensive tackle, although it took them quite a while to make a move at this position. There wasn't much speculation that the Bengals were in the market for a defensive tackle in free agency as they re-signed backups Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims. But, there was still the thought that they might pick up an impressive tackle early in the Draft.
That didn't happen, but Billings' perceived lack of ability to play on all three downs caused him to fall all the way to the Bengals at No. 122 overall in the fourth round. After what was likely a very short discussion, the Bengals decided to take Draft the talented kid out of Baylor. In the process, they massively upgraded their defensive tackle depth and potentially set him up to (hopefully) be part of one of the best defensive tackle tandems of the future with Geno Atkins.
Revamping the coaching staff
Losing as many coaches as the Bengals lost this offseason was unfortunate, but they did an excellent job replacing them. In particular; losing Jackson at offensive coordinator wasn't fun, but replacing him with proven quarterbacks coach and son of the legendary Air Coryell offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, Ken Zampese, was a great move for the team.
There were also quite a few changes made to the defensive coaching staff. The Bengals lost defensive backs coaches Vance Joseph and Mark Carrier, linebacker coach Matt Burke, and defensive line coach Jay Hayes to other teams this offseason. But, they replaced them with former successful Bengals' defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, former Saints head coach Jim Haslett, and former positional coach under Marvin Lewis in Baltimore, Jacob Burney. In a recent article for ESPN, Coley Harvey noted this move as the best of the Bengals' offseason. Losing as many coaches as the Bengals did is never fun, but few teams are able to handle these situations as expertly as the Bengals did. Though, we'll need to see the coaches in action and how their position groups perform to really judge them.
Re-tooling the wide receiver position
Once again, the Bengals' need for a great offseason move came out of a less than desirable situation resulting from some bad luck. In this case, it was the fact that they lost out on re-signing both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason. It was known for a while that it was going to be very difficult for the team to retain both dynamic players, but it was a both surprising and obnoxious when they were unable to re-sign either player.
In response, the Bengals loaded up on receiver options in the offseason and in the draft. Following the crazy first couple of days of free agency, they made a great move in picking up former Panthers and Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell. In the draft, they picked up the talented Tyler Boyd in the second round, as well as the underrated Cody Core in the sixth round.
Following the draft, they added Alex Erickson, Antwane Grant, and Alonzo Russell as college free agents. They will also be returning James Wright from injury as well as giving Jake Kumerow a chance to compete for a spot on the active roster. That's seven talented receivers who are looking to help fill two roster spots on the team. Talk about an abundance of riches at a position that seemed to be in trouble.
Who do you think was the Bengals' best acquisition of the offseason? Let us know in the poll below! If you don't see your answer, let us know your thoughts in the comments!