For the second straight offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals went through a major roster overhaul.
Last year, on offense, it was wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu leaving for greener pastures. Andre Smith also departed after spending the previous five years as Cincinnati’s full-time right tackle. On defense, the Bengals lost a pair of key defensive backs in Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall. All of this made for one of the bigger roster overhauls any team went through in 2016.
For better or worse, the Bengals are going through a similar roster shift this year.
The guys at Over The Cap just did a great study on how much roster turnover all 32 NFL teams went through this offseason. As you can imagine, the Bengals were ranked high on this list due to all of their offseason defections.
I think we all should have seen this one coming from a mile away after the Bengals failed to fire this year. The Bengals have basically been the equivalent of an NBA 6 or 7 seed that generally always is in the playoffs but you knew they had no chance of knocking off any of the better teams. It’s a terrible place to be in any sport. The most questionable loss was Kevin Zeitler who was likely considered too expensive for the Bengals. Once that decision was made it was probably easier to part ways with veteran Andrew Whitworth, one of the best bargains in the history of the league, and embrace a new direction. The Bengals basically brought nobody in so they need strong contributions from their draft if they want to improve. This may be the sign of a 2-3 year project.
You could make a good argument the Bengals lost more this offseason than they did in 2016. While 2016 saw more key players leave, 2017 saw far more critical pieces departing in the form of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler.
Zeitler has become one of the best right guards in football, and he alone would have been a big offseason loss for the Bengals. Making matters worse was Cincinnati being unable to keep Whitworth in the fold either. The 11-year veteran has been one of the game’s best left tackles for many years now, so seeing both him and Zeitler go in one offseason is a massive loss for the Bengals.
Also leaving this offseason were linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive tackle Domata Peko, two starters who were making a pretty penny throughout their Bengals careers, even if they didn’t necessarily deserve it.
Losing those four player also accounted for a big change in the overall salary cap for the Bengals, being that they were paid almost $25 million combined last year. This offseason, that money was used to re-sign Dre Kirkpatrick to a five-year, $50 million deal, while also signing Andre Smith, Kevin Minter and Brandon LaFell to manageable deals.
The teams that underwent more turnover than the Bengals are the 49ers, Jaguars, Ravens, Bills, Cowboys and Cardinals. The Bengals will face the Ravens in Weeks 1 and 17 this season as well as the Jaguars in Week 9 and Bills in Week 5. Per OTC, the Cardinals (ranked the #1 on the list) lost 25.5% of their "quality snaps" from last season, compared to the Bengals who lost 17.9% of “quality snaps” from 2016.