Update: Thompson won’t be a free agent in 2017 due to his contract in 2016 including a clause for the deal to rollover to 2017 if he spent the whole year injured and not cleared to play. Thompson began the year on PUP before being moved to IR at the deadline to make that move. He will now remain under contract with the Bengals next season.
Just last year, Brandon Thompson was one of the Bengals’ many free agents heading into 2016 as well as one of the players who worked out a new deal with the team. Unfortunately, the torn ACL he suffered in Week 17 of the 2015 season caused him to miss the entire 2016 season. So now a free agent for the second time in two years, he didn’t play one snap during that span.
Before he returned to the Bengals last season, Thompson received some free agency interest from the Seattle Seahawks, but they ended up letting him leave without a deal and the Bengals signed him to a contract worth $840,000 to return to the team in 2016. The Bengals knew he’d be available for the second half of the season, at best, but signed him anyway and allowed him to spend the year rehabbing on the team’s dime and getting help from the team’s medical staff.
Thompson may have missed the entire season due to an injury, but that was largely out of his control. The Bengals’ depth problem at defensive tackle hasn’t exactly improved, so is he worth extending once again, even a season removed from his last NFL play?
39 games played (7 games started) in 4 seasons: 34 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 1 pass deflection
2016 season stats
Argument for re-signing Thompson
The lack of interest surrounding Thompson before 2016, despite a visit with the Seahawks, allowed the Bengals to re-sign him for approximately $50,000 more than the league minimum for a fourth-year veteran. That was also very likely due to teams knowing the recovery process for a man his size who suffers an ACL tear. There will probably be minimal interest for him this offseason as he has spent an entire year off-the-field and wasn’t particularly productive to begin with.
With the Bengals currently deciding whether or not to re-sign Domata Peko, another under-performing veteran doesn’t sound necessary. But, Thompson could be the team’s fall-back option, just for the sake of keeping a veteran other than Geno Atkins and Pat Sims around at the position. Thompson can likely be brought back for a reasonable price. Replacing him with a veteran free agent might deliver a more productive player, but there is something to be said about keeping players around who are familiar with the system, especially at a position that is rather unstable right now.
Case against re-signing Thompson
While it is true that Thompson provides a veteran presence with starting experience, without the price-tag that usually comes along with it, it would be nice if the Bengals could find a more productive player to potentially play rotationally, or even as an occasional starter. There is a reason he never secured a starting position with the team, despite multiple opportunities to prove himself in his first four seasons. He just hasn’t played very well when he has been on the field and there is little reason to think that will change for the better at this point.
The Bengals admittedly have one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles in Geno Atkins. But, behind him, Domata Peko showed his age in 2016, Andrew Billings appears talented but has yet to take an NFL snap, and DeShawn Williams isn’t ready to be a featured player. With depth like that, it is understandable that the Bengals would place quite a bit of value on experience and familiarity with the system. However, that should not inhibit the team from finding starting-caliber talent. The Bengals can’t necessarily expect Billings to be ready to start, so opening up Thompson’s roster spot to foster competition at defensive tackle seems like the right move.
Priority to re-sign: Low