Even though this time of year is very quiet for most NFL teams, the Bengals have made some moves during the pre-free agency period. Over the course of the past two weeks, the team has signed a new player in Bene Benwikere, while also signing former kicker Shayne Graham to a one-day contract to retire as a Cincinnati Bengal.
The signing of Benwikere brings both optimism and questions. The team has a lot of young talent already locked up, but with Adam Jones battling legal issues and Dre Kirkpatrick facing free agency, Benwikere provides a safety net with the uncertainty at the position. But, if the team were to lose both of the longest-tenured veterans of the group, be it by their own volition or not, should Benwikere be trusted with a big role after a poor 2016 season in which he bounced around between multiple teams?
Meanwhile, there is a lot to feel good about with Graham’s recent retirement deal with the team. He was a big part of the team’s renaissance in Marvin Lewis’ early years and became the franchise’s second-leading points scorer in team history behind Jim Breech. After a productive seven-year career in The Queen City, which also included some great community work, this becomes a feel-good story for a familiar face.
However, the retirement contract also brings conversations about long-standing issues. While Graham reached out to the team to orchestrate this deal, why have so many other popular Bengals figures not been given the same opportunity? And, for a team who has the infamous reputation of keeping its players and fans at an arm’s length, might this finally be an initial step toward the club making long-term plans of properly recognizing their former greats?
Aside from those news tidbits, Scott Schultze and I also examined the state of the running back position on this week’s Orange and Black Insider. Even though the team has talent in the group, they are not only facing uncertainty in free agency with Rex Burkhead and Cedric Peerman, but also with the backs under contract for 2017. Jeremy Hill hasn’t been the same guy since his breakout rookie year and Giovani Bernard remains a multifaceted threat, but has had a history of injuries—none more severe than the torn ACL he suffered in Week 11 against the Buffalo Bills.
Obviously, when talking about the running back position, the idea of the team drafting either Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook at No. 9 overall this April comes to the forefront. Are they truly the franchise-changing backs needed to spark the team to another postseason run, or do the Bengals need to shore up the offensive line and other areas to give Hill and Bernard the proper chance to further prove themselves?
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