How good has the Cincinnati Bengals’ offseason been?
Many national experts have slammed the Bengals’ offseason moves as a whole, in large part because of the losses of Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth. However, the additions of Kevin Minter, John Ross, Andre Smith, Joe Mixon and Jordan Willis should serve as a major boost for a team that finished 6-9-1 last year.
There’s also the fact that Cincinnati was able to re-sign one of their top free agents in Dre Kirkpatrick, who is a rising star entering the prime of his career. That’s why the Bengals deserve some credit for what they’ve done since the 2016 season ended, and ESPN is actually giving them some.
NFL reporter Mike Sando gathered 15 NFL executives, coaches and evaluators to hand out report cards for every NFL team. Their review for the Bengals was better than most offseason grades the team has received:
Cincinnati Bengals: Grade: B-
The Bengals have been playing catch-up on offense after losing key wide receivers in free agency last offseason and key linemen more recently.
"They got decimated a little bit in free agency, but they regathered and restocked in the draft, which you have to do," a former GM said. "That is part of the NFL."
Blazing wideout John Ross was a bit of a surprise selection with the ninth overall pick. Running back Joe Mixon was a controversial pick in the second round. Would execs from other teams slam Cincy for selecting a player best known for punching a woman in the face in a 2014 assault caught on surveillance video? Not all of them would.
"I think their season really comes down to, can Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi play tackle?" - An NFL executive
"It is interesting because they are truly a hands-on family franchise," a longtime exec said. "They do a pretty good job of tolerating players with issues, guys like Adam Jones. I just think that is how they are. It kind of makes more sense for them than it might for other teams. That is [owner] Mike Brown believing in somebody."
The division-rival Steelers might have the best skill-position players in the league. Cincy has the potential to be in that conversation as well.
"Their skill players are great right now," an exec said. "What isn't great is losing [guard] Kevin Zeitler. That is a big loss. I think their season really comes down to, can Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi play tackle? If those guys can play tackle, then that offense is going to be a nightmare. And if those guys cannot play tackle, they do not have answers on the roster and I don't know what they are going to do."
Sure, the offensive tackle spot is a big concern after Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher didn’t light the world on fire last year, but they’re both young and still far from reaching their maximum potential in the NFL. They both need improve off of last year, but they still should become a decent starting tandem at some point in the next year or two. And, we can certainly hope to see them become better than decent.
Then, you’ve got what’s shaping up to be one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. As if returning A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert wasn’t scary enough, adding a first-round receiver in Ross and a first-round-caliber running back in Mixon will make this a dangerous unit in 2017.
The defense also got some much-needed additions in Willis and fellow pass-rusher Carl Lawson. They were viewed as two of the top edge rushers in this year’s NFL Draft, and that’s exactly what the defense needed to upgrade most to become elite again.
Swapping out Rey Maualuga for Minter will be a nice upgrade at middle linebacker as Maualuga has been a major liability for far too long. If Minter can just be an average linebacker, that will be a nice boost. And of course, we’ll hope for much better than average play from the still-young linebacker.
It’s good to see someone finally giving the Bengals a respectable grade for what they’ve managed to accomplish this offseason.
Do you approve of what the Bengals have done so far this offseason?
This poll is closed
They did mostly well, but there were a few head-scratchers.
Not great, not terrible.
It was mostly bad, but I liked a few things.
Bad all around.