Most successfully businesses and enterprises have both a short term strategy and a long term vision. They make sure they will be successful in the present, while ensuring they are not mortgaging the future in the process.
The same can be said of successful households, who ensure they can meet daily expenses with prudent budgeting that allows them to plan for investments into their future.
And in the football world this applies, not only to financial considerations, but also to the roster. The team needs to build the best roster they can for the purposes of winning now, while maintaining a plan to ensure the roster is set in such a way that the team does not become burdened with mass defections of key players forcing the team to overpay for free agents or draft for need.
With this in mind, we look at who the Bengals have signed under contract and for how long.
|QB||Andy Dalton||Andy Dalton||Andy Dalton||Andy Dalton||Andy Dalton|
|QB||A.J. McCarron||A.J. McCarron||Joe Licata||-||-|
|QB||Keith Wenning||Joe Licata||-||-||-|
The Bengals have their top two quarterbacks under contract for the next two years, and their starter is secured for five seasons. They seem to be set for quite a while at arguably the most important position on an NFL football team.
Assuming McCarron decides to look elsewhere for a chance at a starting spot after his rookie contract expires, the Bengals have a couple years before they would need to look for a backup quarterback, which could be in the form of a 2018 draft pick, or a veteran.
|RB||Jeremy Hill||Jeremy Hill||Tra Carson||-||-|
|RB||Giovani Bernard||Tre Carson||Dyshawn Mobley||-||-|
|RB||Rex Burkhead||Dyshawn Mobley||-||-||-|
The Bengals will enter training camp with a crowded group of seven running backs vying for practice reps. But that number will quickly drop to three after the upcoming season, with two of the three coming in the form of undrafted free agents who are no guarantee to even be drawing a paycheck from the Bengals in a few months from now when training camp ends. After the 2017 season, the Bengals currently have only those two undrafted free agents slated to be in the backfield.
Unless Tra Carson or Dyshawn Mobley emerge as the next Arian Foster or Fred Jackson, the running back situation will need some attention sooner than later. Based on the Bengals track record, they will likely sign either Bernard or Hill to an extension, but not both. When they have a pair of good players at a position, they usually sign one long term and let the other walk. Some examples:
- Keep Leon Hall, lose Jonathan Joseph
- Keep Carlos Dunlap, lose Michael Johnson (only to get him back)
- Keep George Iloka, lose Reggie Nelson
- Keep A.J. Green, lose Marvin Jones
My completely unofficial guess is that the Bengals will first try to keep Bernard, and if that fails, offer a similar deal to Hill. Even when Jeremy Hill was having his breakout second half of 2014, the Bengals kept Bernard active in their offense, instead of continually feeding the hot hand. They seem to like what Bernard offers, and I think he will be the one they prefer to keep. Another benefit of signing Bernard is that it gives them one more season of combining Hill and Bernard.
|WR||A.J. Green||A.J. Green||A.J. Green||A.J. Green||-|
|WR||Brandon LaFell||Tyler Boyd||Tyler Boyd||Tyler Boyd||-|
|WR||Tyler Boyd||James Wright||Mario Alford||Cody Core||-|
|WR||Brandon Tate||Mario Alford||Cody Core||-||-|
|WR||James Wright||Cody Core||Alonzo Russell||-||-|
|WR||Mario Alford||Jake Kumerow||Alex Erickson||-||-|
|WR||Cody Core||Michael Bennett||Antwane Grant||-||-|
|WR||Jake Kumerov||Alonzo Russell||-||-||-|
|WR||Michael Bennett||Alex Erickson||-||-||-|
|WR||Alonzo Russell||Antwane Grant||-||-||-|
Twelve hours on a clock, 12 days of Christmas, and 12 wide receivers on the Bengals' current roster. Just like the hours of the clock and days of Christmas, the countdown will begin, as the team pares this number to something more manageable for the roster. It will be an interesting countdown this year as only four of the 12 players under contract have ever played in an NFL game (Green, LaFell, Tate, and Wright).
If Tyler Boyd pans out, the Bengals will have their top two receivers locked up for the next four seasons. That puts them in a good position to have both Green and Boyd under contract until the 2020 season. If Boyd does not pan out, they could face some challenges at the position, as Green, James Wright and his five career receptions on 16 targets and Mario Alford and his 1 reception for 15 yards are the only players under contract beyond this upcoming season who have ever played in an NFL game.
Tight End / Fullback
|TE||Tyler Eifert||Tyler Eifert||Tyler Kroft||-||-|
|TE||Tyler Kroft||Tyler Kroft||C.J. Uzomah||-||-|
|TE||C.J. Uzomah||C.J. Uzomah||-||-||-|
|TE||Matt Lengel||Matt Lengel||-||-||-|
Tyler Eifert is locked up for the next two seasons, while fellow Tyler, and top backup, Tyler Kroft, is under contract for the next three years. The tight end position is one that the Bengals have no need to look into for the next couple of seasons. Even if Eifert is not signed to a long term deal, the position really doesn’t become a need until 2019 when Kroft could potentially be gone.
Fullback Ryan Hewitt is entering a contract year and the fullback position is one that the Bengals typically put a low priority on, preferring to fill it with undrafted free agents. Meaning, if Hewitt does leave, they will likely bring in some college free agents next May with the purpose of fighting for the roster spot.
|T||Andrew Whitworth||Cedric Ogbuehi||Cedric Ogbuehi||Cedric Ogbuehi||-|
|T||Cedric Ogbuehi||Jake Fisher||Jake Fisher||-||-|
|T||Jake Fisher||John Weidenaar||John Weidenaar||-||-|
|T||Eric Winston||Aaron Epps||Aaron Epps||-||-|
The tackle positions are pretty much loaded for the next three seasons with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher secured for that duration. Ogbuehi could be here even longer than that if the team picks up his fifth year option down the road. In addition, they still have starting left tackle Whitworth signed for this year.
|G||Kevin Zeitler||Clint Boling||Clint Boling||Clint Boling||-|
|G||Clint Boling||Christian Westerman||Christian Westerman||Christian Westerman||-|
|G||Christian Westerman||Trey Hopkins||Alex Cooper||-||-|
|G||Trey Hopkins||Alex Cooper||Alex Redmond||-||-|
|G||Alex Cooper||Alex Redmond||Trip Thurman||-||-|
|G||Alex Redmond||Trip Thurman||-||-||-|
Guard could be just as secured as tackle, if Christian Westerman pans out. That would give the Bengals a pair of players who could start (Clint Boling and Westerman) under contract for the next four seasons. And, of course, present starter Kevin Zeitler is on the roster for this season, and could potentially be extended into the future. Since the Bengals typically don’t spend money on the interior of the offensive line, it seems unlikely they would hand out a second big contract to a guard, meaning this year could be Zeitler’s last as a Bengal, and Westerman could be in the lead spot to replace him after this season.
|C||Russell Bodine||Russell Bodine||-||-||-|
Center is what it always is for the Bengals, a low quality starter role with not much in the way of depth pushing the starter for playing time. Russell Bodine is under contract, and likely will be the starter, for the next two seasons, while T.J. Johnson is in his last year, assuming he doesn’t get replaced by the plethora of linemen who are auditioning to take his spot in the backup center role.