To be fair, there is a method to the Bengals’ maddening decision to rarely, if ever pursue outside free agents, especially in recent years. That’s because when the Bengals lose big-name players like Marvin Jones and Kevin Zeitler, they can score compensatory draft picks in the following year.
That’s set to play out this year with AJ McCarron, who is an unrestricted free agent that could sign a monster deal with another team. That, in turn, gives the Bengals a chance to score a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
As Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson writes, that very scenario is why we shouldn’t expect the Bengals to be active in free agency.
I also don’t see them straying very far from their philosophy of not signing unrestricted free agents (UFAs) so they can get draft compensation for losing their own UFAs. I would think that’s especially true with AJ McCarron. If they didn’t get that second- and third-rounder from Cleveland, they can at least get a compensatory third in 2019 for him.
Depending on how big of a deal McCarron signs, the highest it can be is a third-round pick, and it should at least be a fourth-round pick. It’s untelling how big of a contract offer McCarron will get from other teams, but if it’s big enough to get a third-round pick, that will only make it easier for the Bengals to stand pat in free agency.
That’s not to say the Bengals can’t pursue outside free agents. They just won’t be big-name players like Nate Solder, DeMarcus Lawrence, Andrew Norwell, Sheldon Richardson or Ja’Wuan James.
Instead, it will be filler players and guys like Kevin Minter, who do have some promise but are being forced to sign a one-year prove-it deal for one reason or another.