It has been a busy offseason for the Bengals. No one knows this more than Bengals' Director of Player Personnel, Duke Tobin. Although he does not officially bear the title, Tobin has become known in NFL circles as the Bengals’ de facto general manager, molding the team’s personnel into a group capable of great things since he joined the team in 1999. It took a few years for things to pick up during his tenure, but the work he has put in alongside the rest of the Bengals’ front office and coaching staff has transformed the Bengals from a franchise with virtually no chance to one that consistently competes and is regularly in the playoff discussion.
If there was ever a year that Tobin and his staff had their hands full in the offseason, it’s this one. Due to multiple offseason departures from guys like Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Emmanuel Lamur, Hue Jackson, and many other members of the roster and coaching staff, they’ve had to scramble to find sufficient replacements in enough time to allow them ample opportunity to gel with the team and prepare for the season.
For this reason, you would think that everyone who will end up making the final cuts is already on the roster. But, if you tried to explain that to Tobin, he wouldn’t necessarily agree.
"The roster is never set," Tobin told Dan Hoard in an interview on ESPN 1530. "We're always open to improvements if we can find them."
The Bengals aren’t exactly known as a team that goes out and signs big names to add talent to their roster. Historically, they’ve always preferred to utilize the draft for these purposes if they can. However, this year, they did pursue a few players in free agency whose names carry some weight, Karlos Dansby and Brandon LaFell.
Dansby, in particular, was once known as one of the most talented linebackers in the league. He experienced the highest point of his career when he went to Super Bowl XLIII with the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately, they came up unsuccessful against a high powered Pittsburgh Steelers team, but he has been itching to get back ever since and thinks he’s found what he’s looking for with the Bengals. Luckily, the 34-year-old linebacker seems to have impressed Tobin and the coaching staff so far.
"I would say he's every bit of what we thought he would be," Tobin said about Dansby. "He still has the movement we've seen on tape."
One particular free agent who has been receiving some buzz among Bengals fans has been Dansby’s former teammate, Anquan Boldin. Despite a general lack of news surrounding talks between the two parties, it’s still something that Hoard felt the need to ask about. Tobin was rather blunt about the matter.
"We have not had any discussions with him," Tobin said when asked about Boldin. "We feel good about some of the young guys we have."
The Bengals have added plenty of wide receiver talent to the pool this offseason from free agency, the draft, or just returning guys who didn’t have a real opportunity to compete last year for whatever reason. To name a few, the team should see James Wright, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, LaFell, and Jake Kumerow all competing to make the roster and make an impact this year. Kumerow, in particular, has raised some eyebrows at OTAs and seems to always be in the serious discussion for guys with a legitimate chance to make the final receiver spot, despite still being a relative unknown.
"Kumerow has really opened some eyes," Tobin said of last year's practice squad player. "We think he's a young guy that might be able to come up."
In addition to the new and young guys competing, there are a few returning veterans who should have a fighting chance at the roster. James Rapien Tweeted some highlights from the interview with Tobin, noting that Tobin also sounded positive about Brandon Tate’s ability to make the roster.
Tobin also noted the team believes that Brandon Tate can contribute.— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) July 1, 2016
That should sit well with Bengals fans, right?
With all of the competition at wide receiver, it seems silly to think that bringing in an unfamiliar veteran like Anquan Boldin would make much sense. Don’t forget that A.J. Green is guaranteed the WR1 spot, leaving only five or six open spots for the other 10 guys currently on the roster. Then again, as Tobin said, "the roster is never set," so it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see another move or two made. And, as the Bengals currently only have 89 men on their roster, with the potential for 90, we should expect another signing to come in the next month.