The Bengals' 2016 offseason was, by far, one of the more interesting ones they've had in the last five years. Things started out on a bit of a sour note for the offense as former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson left the team to be the head coach of the rival Cleveland Browns less than a week after the Bengals' Wild Card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Throughout the next two months, the team also saw receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu leave for other teams as well as starting right tackle Andre Smith.
For the most part, those losses looked to be pretty tough to deal with. However, the Bengals made a point to address their major holes in free agency and the Draft and compensate for their losses as much as possible. To start, they promoted long time quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese to offensive coordinator in Jackson's absence.
They also stacked the wide receiver position by adding Tyler Boyd and Cody Core in the draft, as well as Brandon LaFell and a few undrafted rookies in free agency. Luckily for the right tackle position, the Bengals already drafted the player whom they expect to take over in the first round last year, Cedric Ogbuehi.
There's not really any way to compensate for the chemistry lost between Andy Dalton and the departed players, but, the Bengals did a commendable job with the roster given the unfortunate setbacks.
Why they could still live to regret it
Behind Jackson, Dalton was on pace to have the best season of his career. Jackson helped the Bengals' offense cook and seemed to be exactly what they needed in 2015. Zampese has done a fantastic job coaching quarterbacks like Jon Kitna, Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Dalton to success with the Bengals. But, he just doesn't have the same kind of experience that Jackson brought to the table.
Furthermore, stacking the wide receiver pool with talent doesn't replace the chemistry that existed between Dalton and a receiver corps featuring Jones and Sanu. LaFell and Boyd should be productive additions, but there will likely be a bit of a learning curve as the two players adjust to the Bengals' way of doing things. Returning weapons like A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Hill will help keep that curve from affecting the offense too much, but expecting no growing pains would be silly.
Finally, losing the controversial and inconsistent Smith could really be seen as either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective. Yes, he was noted as one of the biggest drawbacks of the Bengals' offense last year. But, he was an experienced veteran who possessed quite a bit of talent, even though he didn't always show it.
The Bengals' staff seems to be pretty excited about Cedric Ogbuehi so far, but the fact of the matter is he has no experience starting at the NFL level and will likely require some adjustment time before he gets to the point where he's consistently playing better than Smith would have.
Why they could end up better off
The first half of the season could be rough for the Bengals. On top of adjusting for the learning curve through the beginning of the season, missing Vontaze Burfict for the very tough three game stretch at the beginning of the season (Jets, Steelers, Broncos) could leave them with a lot to make up for throughout the rest of the season.
But, if the Bengals can come together and win at least two of their first three games, you're taking a lot of pressure off of the new additions and allowing them to really learn and gel with the team.
Finishing strong in the regular season could be a great mental boost to the team if they make it to the postseason, allowing the new additions to really show off why the Bengals wanted to sign them in the first place. It will require a lot of things going right, but with all of the talent remaining on the roster, despite the losses, this could actually be the breath of fresh air that the roster needed. Yes, the Bengals lost a lot of key pieces this offseason. Yes, the new additions could take time to adjust to their new system. But, the old squad wasn't getting the job done when it counted the most. There doesn't seem to be any reason to think that these changes won't end up working for the betterment of the team.