After the Bengals signed Chris Baker and declined to pick up the option on Adam Jones’ contract, it felt like things were starting to change for Cincinnati football fans. The team made smart moves that made sense to better the team.
Then the Bengals did something that really shook things up. The team traded with the Bills for left tackle Cordy Glenn and in five years covering the team, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large majority of fans get on board and get excited about a decision made by the Marvin Lewis-led Bengals.
Of course, there are always going to be people who are angry and disagree with a decision. And there were Bengals fans who found reasons to get mad about one of the biggest trades ever made by the Bengals’ organization.
Glenn comes to the Bengals after two injury-filled seasons. He played six games in 2017, 11 games in 2016 but never missed a game between 2012 to 2015. Injuries happen in the NFL. They happen a lot. And often, in order to win, you need to take a risk. The Bengals have been risk adverse and fans have criticized them for it without end. The team finally took a risk on Glenn and for that, I applaud them and hope for the best.
And I do think we’ll get the best. Glenn is working his way back to 100 percent health after an injury-plagued 2017 season, which included him dealing with foot and ankle issues and undergoing a procedure due to ankle spurs toward the end of the year. According to the Bills’ website, he’s expected to be healthy by April for OTAs. This was a good move by the Bengals to be proactive and attempt to fix the team’s biggest weakness.
Then we got to the actual start of free agency and things were pretty quiet in Cincinnati. The big news right around 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday when free agency began was the Bengals re-signing punter Kevin Huber to a three-year deal.
I wanted Huber back in stripes, but re-signing a punter doesn’t exactly send fans into party mode. After proving the Bengals were making solid business decisions in the lead up to free agency, it would have been nice for there to be an exciting signing as the new league year began.
Am I asking for too much? Maybe I am. This is the Bengals we’re talking about after all and the last external free agent they splurged on was probably Antonio Bryant in 2010. That ended with him getting cut before the season even began. You could say James Harrison was a big signing back in 2013, and interestingly, that didn’t work out too great either. So, wanting a big signing on the first day wasn’t that realistic.
But with the passing of time and no news on Tyler Eifert, I started to get optimistic. In this regard, I thought no news was good news and the longer Eifert remained un-signed, the greater the chance was he’d return to the Bengals.
And then finally, the news hit.
Eifert re-signed with the Bengals on a one-year deal that’s expected to be worth a maximum of $8.5 million with a base salary around $5.5 million. The exact details are not yet available, but it sounds like a great deal for both the Bengals and Eifert.
The 27-year-old tight end needs to prove he can stay healthy, something he has never done for a full 16-game season in his five-year NFL career. But when healthy, Eifert has been a major playmaker and one of the NFL’s top tight ends. Re-signing Eifert was a necessary move for the Bengals who were majorly lacking on offense without him last year. It was another smart decision for the team.
One consequence of the Bengals bringing back Eifert also looks to be the money pot emptying and there not being enough remaining to re-sign center Russell Bodine.
This would be such a blessing in disguise. Bodine is not a starting-caliber center. He has never deserved to be handed a job without any real competition, yet every year that’s exactly what has happened.
From the sounds of what was written after the Eifert deal on Bengals.com, it doesn’t seem like Bodine will be returning to Cincinnati.
The Bengals appear poised to shut down any more major deals in free agency.
That leaves center Russell Bodine unsigned and even though he’s a player the Bengals would like back the commitment to rehabbing the offense has accounted for nearly $20 million on this year’s salary cap. The Cordy Glenn trade counts $11.25 million and it’s believed Eifert’s deal could max out in the $8.5 million neighborhood.
Sounds like there’s no money left for Bodine, right?
And that’s a good thing. There are a number of quality centers in this year’s NFL Draft and the Bengals have 11 draft picks with which to draft a center or two. A drafted center or centers could compete with T.J. Johnson and the best player should start at the position for the Bengals in 2018. Having no money left for Bodine is the best case scenario because he is not worthy of a big contract.
Both Marvin Lewis and Duke Tobin praised Bodine at the NFL Combine and spoke of how they want him back in stripes, but if he in fact does not return to the team, Bengals fans should be happy. We’ll have to wait and see who they select, but upgrades are available in the draft, like Iowa’s James Daniels and Ohio State’s Billy Price. Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn is a guard who could play center in the NFL, too and should be in the conversation for the Bengals.
And if you say the Bengals don’t play rookies so they won’t start a rookie center, well 1) the Bengals played their rookies quite a bit last year and ranked in the top half of the league in terms of how much rookies played. And 2) Bodine was handed the starting job on Day 1 of his rookie year.
The Bengals could be splashier, they could be doing more, but they’ve also done enough to keep me satisfied with the direction in which the team is headed. Improvements are still needed to get the Bengals to a point in which they can truly contend, but I’m not mad about what’s happened two days into the new league year.