Good news Bengals fans: You’re not the only ones who are sour on the team’s offseason moves.
When asking my Bengals fans how they would grade Cincinnati’s offseason, it would probably be somewhere between ‘C’ and ‘WTF’.
‘D’ is actually how ESPN graded the Bengals in their offseason assessment of all 32 teams’ free agency moves.
Cincinnati Bengals - Grade: D
Key moves: re-signed CB Dre Kirkpatrick and WR Brandon LaFell; signed LB Kevin Minter and RT Andre Smith; lost G Kevin Zeitler, LT Andrew Whitworth, DL Domata Peko, RB Rex Burkhead and DL Margus Hunt; released LB Rey Maualuga
The Bengals' championship window opened and closed without the team winning a playoff game. While injuries played a leading role in Cincy's recent postseason defeats, free agency keeps knocking down the offense. One year after struggling to fill the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals will have a tough time recovering from losing Whitworth and Zeitler.
That grade was tied with the Jets for the second-worst grade any team received, trailing only Washington’s ‘F’ for simply being in a very bad situation this offseason. That’s not exactly the kind of company you want to be in, but that’s how ESPN sees Cincinnati right now.
When you lose one of the best left tackles of this decade in Andrew Whitworth, that alone constitutes a bad offseason. When you add on losing one of the NFL’s best, young right guards in Kevin Zeitler, now you’re talking about a disastrous offseason.
But making those moves even worse — and perhaps helping constitute a bad grade from ESPN — is Cincinnati had no clear-cut replacements for them in place. Cedric Ogbuehi is the expected replacement at left tackle for Whitworth, which should strike fear in Andy Dalton and any Bengals fans after watching Ogbuehi become one of the NFL’s worst starting linemen in 2016.
It’s expected that Andre Smith will be replacing Zeitler, though he’s spent his entire career at right tackle. Assuming he’ll be even decent is a stretch, especially after how poorly he’s played over the last few years and going on age 30 heading into next season.
And all of this took place while the Bengals failed to upgrade most positions of need, most notably center, defensive end and either tackle spot. Linebacker Kevin Minter was a nice signing, but how much of an upgrade will he be over Karlos Dansby and/or Rey Maualuga? Ironically, the Cardinals opted to sign Dansby after he spent a year with the Bengals and not re-sign Minter, who was a second round draft pick by Arizona back in 2013.
Let’s just hope the Bengals know more than we do — and more than ESPN knows— because on paper, this has been as bad of an offseason as any NFL team has endured.