When the 2016 offseason began, many foresaw the Bengals losing one or both of their free agent wide receivers.
Their worst fears came true as both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left to sign monster deals with the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons respectively. The Bengals reportedly even offered Jones about as much the five-year, $40 million contract Detroit offered, but ultimately lost out.
That deal was about the range that receivers of Jones' caliber are getting now that the NFL salary cap has topped $155 million. Still, you couldn't blame the Bengals if they had overpaid to keep Jones, but they stuck to their offer and let Jones leave.
Elsewhere, Sanu got five-year, $32.5 million contract with the Falcons to the surprise of many. Again, you couldn't have blamed the Bengals would have matched or even offered more to keep Sanu and keep more stability at receiver, but again, they instead showed restraint and let Atlanta make that mistake.
In free agency, it was much as the same as the Bengals passed on big-name receivers like Travis Benjamin, Rishard Matthews and Jermaine Kearse, all of whom got deals paying them at least $4.5 million annually. That's also just over the average salary Giovani Bernard is making on his new contract, which pays him close to $4.3 million per year from 2016-19.
That's right. The Bengals passed on other free agent receivers to help re-sign the guy who has the second-most receptions of any Bengals since 2013, and the Bengals still landed Brandon LaFell on a one-year, $2.5 million deal.
That's what showing restraint can do for teams, and now the Bengals have one of their top offensive players locked up for the foreseeable future, not to mention someone who touches the ball an average of 14.2 times per game since 2013. Compare that to Sanu and Jones combining to touch the ball 7.3 times per game over that same span, and you can see why the Bengals did what they did.
But what about the draft? Were the Bengals right to pass on taking a receiver at 24 or even trading up to get someone like Josh Doctson or Laquon Treadwell, both of whom were taken just ahead of Cincinnati, so it probably wouldn't have cost them much to move from 24 to 18-22 and get one of those guys.
It would have cost even less to move up in Round 2 and grab someone like Michael Thomas or Sterling Shepard, two guys that some services had a first-round grade on.
Instead, the Bengals stayed true to their board and landed Pitt star Tyler Boyd with the 55th overall pick, which turned out to be solid value based on how he was ranked as a prospect. While he doesn't possess the potential that guys like Doctson or Treadwell have, he still should be a solid No. 2 or 3 receiver next to Green and LaFell.
In the end, the question still remains as to whether the Bengals were right to maintain their restraint when it came to not overspending to land a bigger receiver. Wrong or right, there's no question it was a bold move, one of the boldest moves any NFL team made, according to ESPN's Mike Sando.
The move: Showing restraint at wide receiver
The Bengals were in position to address a clear need without reaching until three wide receivers came off the board back-to-back-to-back before Cincinnati's first-round selection. The Bengals waited until the second round (55th overall) before selecting receiver Tyler Boyd.
They still have dynamic receiving weapons with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert returning, so there was no need to panic. But there could be some growing pains for an offense that lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. There was risk in letting Jones and Sanu leave without moving aggressively for replacements.
All of this has left the Bengals with a receiving unit that still has A.J. Green, which automatically makes this a receiver unit better than at least half of the NFL. The problem is that 12-14th spot might be the best-case scenario.
If LaFell continues his dropoff as he nears age 30 while Boyd struggles as a rookie and not other receiver steps up, this could quickly become one of the Bengals' weaknesses in 2016.
In hindsight, I do think the Bengals should have been more active in free agency once they knew Jones and Sanu were leaving. I'm not saying they should have signed a guy like Travis Benjamin to the four-year, $24 million deal he got with the San Diego Chargers, but it wouldn't have hurt to gauge Benjamin's interest in Cincinnati.
Still, I'm happy with how the Bengals offseason has gone as a whole, even with how the receiver unit shook out.