Just like the annual NFL Draft, it's often hard to truly grade how good or bad an offseason is/was until one to two years have passed.
A big reason why is that very draft, which features prospects whom we don't get a true feel for until anywhere between one to four years of their professional careers have passed. That's why even a task as trivial as handing out offseason grades can be hard to accurately do until a year later, if not longer, to see how said offseason really played out.
But that's not stopping Pro Football Focus from handing out grades for all 32 NFL teams. The Bengals received a respectable 'B' grade, which was due in large part to what turned into a good free agency for Cincinnati, despite losing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
Perhaps the biggest achievement the Bengals made in the offseason was retaining as much of their secondary as they did. With Leon Hall, Adam Jones, George Iloka and Reggie Nelson all out of contract, the Bengals could potentially have lost an entire secondary in a few days, but they managed to bring back Jones and Iloka — arguably the two most important players of the group.
Adding Karlos Dansby brings a veteran linebacker who is still playing at a high level and has an ability in coverage that most of their corps does not possess, and they retained a few other depth pieces of the roster. Losing both their second and third receivers at the same time could potentially hurt, but they did at least address that issue in the draft, as we shall see.
Free agency is often the best way to truly grade a team's offseason since this involves proven players who we have a sense of and are already confident in what they can do in the NFL. In that sense, a B is very fair when the Bengals were able to keep many of their top free agents, but still lost some important ones in Jones, Sanu, Reggie Nelson and likely Leon Hall.
However, the Bengals got high marks from PFF thanks in part to a solid draft class that included some huge steals along the way.
The Bengals did a lot of good things offseason, but it was not a perfect period for the team. They allowed significant players for them to depart in free agency in the shape of Marvin Jones and Reggie Nelson, and while they did replace them, they will be relying on rookies to pick up the slack and hit the ground running, which is often a long shot.
They did, however, get spectacular value in several spots in the draft with Jackson, Billings and Christian Westerman all representing steals at the spots they were drafted. This is an offseason that might look much better in a couple of years’ time than it does right now — and it already looks pretty good.
Personally, I would be inclined to give the Bengals a B or B+ for their offseason, though I would also factor in Shawn Williams being re-signed to a very team-friendly deal. PFF handed out this grade prior to Williams being re-signed.