We debate all the time whether or not NFL teams know what they are doing. I’ve often found myself giving the benefit of the doubt to the teams, considering owners and general managers have a lot of money riding on their decisions and prep, so you’d think they’d do their homework.
Well, USA Today decided to find out how true that is as they polled the people who work directly with teams on behalf of the players: the agents. USA TODAY Sports NFL columnist Jarrett Bell and NFL reporter Lindsay H. Jones polled 25 agents on their thoughts on NFL teams and their top personnel.
Their findings were not great for the Bengals and can be considered quite embarrassing. Cincinnati ranked first as the team that is least prepared for contract negotiations, and Mike Brown also came in fourth among NFL decision-makers agents trust the least.
This pretty much puts a big rain cloud on this offseason, and offseasons going forward. It has been no secret that the Bengals rarely bring in big-name free agents, and in recent years they have been more prone to losing their homegrown talent. This could be a big reason for all that. I mean, according to this poll the agents trust the current organization in Cleveland more than they trust Mike Brown.
The other teams ranked with the Bengals on these lists are not all that surprising. Among the other teams least prepared for contract negotiations are the Browns (2), Washington (3), Bears (4), Jets (t-5) and Raiders (t-5). The other least trusted executives are Washington president Bruce Allen (1), Dolphins executive VP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum (2) and Broncos GM John Elway (3).
The Bengals’ philosophy hasn’t been hard to see. They value their own players over outside free agents. They also don’t like to give out tons of guaranteed money. They prefer to give team-friendly deals, and they allow players to play out their contracts even when another team would probably cut that player to save cap space. Doing business like this has obviously rubbed some players and obviously agents the wrong way.
Last year there were reports that the Bengals didn’t even offer Kevin Zeitler a contract. Instead, the team allowed him to see what kind of contract he could get on the open market. He then signed one of the largest contracts of the 2017 offseason with the Browns. Then there was the handling of Andrew Whitworth. The long time fan and team favorite was tired of playing on a year-to-year contract. The Bengals didn’t want to offer him a multi-year deal, so he found one with the Rams.
There are plenty more examples, but the Bengals seem to be trying to fix this. They made a big trade for Cordy Glenn this offseason, and they also signed Preston Brown to a one-year deal.
Russell Bodine reportedly left for Buffalo because he was also frustrated by the offer the Bengals gave him. While many of us rejoiced over that, it still shows an instance of the Bengals losing a guy the team did want to keep.
The one thing the Bengals do better than most teams though is plan ahead. They have already talked this offseason about extending Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap before the 2018 season. The two foundation pieces to the defense are set to become free agents next offseason. Whether it is because they want their players to feel wanted, or because it is cheaper than letting them hit the open market, the Bengals usually get guys extended early.
These results shouldn’t shock anyone, but it is still disappointing to see your team at the bottom of a poll like this.