The Patriots have long been known as a team who is more likely to let a player go a year before his play declines than a year after. The Bengals have certainly held on to some veterans past their prime.
In any acquisition there are always winners and losers. So how have the Bengals fared when acquiring former Patriots and how have the Patriots fared when acquiring former Bengals?
One team has done better than the other.
I have been married for five years. (This is going somewhere, I promise.) One thing that every married man learns is that no matter what you are planning, your wife probably has a better idea.
My wife certainly has better luck with her football team. She is a Patriots fan, but as a native New Englander she came by it honestly. It is rough enough following a team that consistently lets you down, but sharing a home with someone who expects a Super Bowl championship every year adds a touch of citrus to that cut.
When the Bengals were regularly making the playoffs every year I was always excited for the prospect of going to a Bengals/Patriots playoff game with my wife, but secretly terrified of what the week leading up to that (and following it) would be like in my household. But I digress...
The Bengals and Patriots have had a lot of common players during the past several years. This article does not cover all of them, but it does get into the most notable and most recent.
The two most notable players to play for both the Bengals and the Patriots are Corey Dillon and Chad Johnson here after referred to as Ocho Cinco. Dillon had a phenomenal career with the Bengals, but his best season came in his first year with the Patriots. In that season he rushed for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to a Super Bowl championship.
In each of the next two seasons the aging back’s rushing yards dropped below 1,000, but he scored 12 and 13 touchdowns respectively. He may have had most of his best years in Cincinnati, but the Patriots got one great year out of him and it helped them get a ring. Ocho Cinco was a different story.
Although he was known for the work he put in on- and off-the-field in Cincinnati, he struggled to get on the same page as Tom Brady and could never become a contributor in the Patriots’ offense.
James Develin spent two years on the Bengals’ practice squad from 2010-2012 as a defensive lineman before the Patriots brought him in and made him a Pro Bowl fullback. The Bengals traded Marquis Flowers to the Patriots after struggling to find a role for him in their defense during the first few years of his career.
The Patriots got good use out of him and he even started a couple of games in 2017 earning himself a new contract in New England this offseason. Rex Burkhead contributed to the Bengals in many ways, but always seemed under-utilized. The Patriots have a perpetually crowded backfield, but Burkhead may challenge rookie Sony Michel as the most versatile player in the group.
Burkhead had some injury issues in 2017, so the jury is still out on his career with the Patriots but his first year in New England was strong. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels used him more in the passing game than the Bengals had and he recorded 264 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns along with 353 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns last season.
The Patriots running back outlook has gotten even cloudier with the addition of another former Bengals player in Jeremy Hill. Hill has taken a lot of heat from Bengals fans for his recent performance, but early on (and with better blocking) he was a touchdown machine.
Hill was tied for the league lead in touchdowns with 11 in 2015 and had 9 touchdowns in both 2014 and 2016. The Patriots love having a big back who can score on the goal line. In fact, the year after Hill led the league in touchdowns, Patriots back LeGarrette Blount led the league with 18.
The Bengals have acquired multiple players from the Patriots as well. Recently-released wide receiver Brandon LaFell, former wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate and former running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis were notable transfers. The trio remained relatively consistent in their transitions.
Green-Ellis was a solid contributor who shared the backfield with Danny Woodhead in New England. He had relatively similar production in Cincinnati where he eventually shared the backfield with Giovani Bernard. Tate averaged slightly fewer yards per return in his time with the Bengals than he had in New England, but his time spent in both cities was pretty similar. LaFell also seemed to be the same player in Cincinnati that he was in New England.
It is not really fair to include Dillon and Ocho Cinco in an evaluation of how players fare when traveling between the two teams. The pair of borderline Hall-of-Famers with very different experiences in New England are outliers.
At the end of the day, when the Bengals get a player from the Patriots they tend to get about what the Patriots got out of them, but when the Patriots get a player from the Bengals they find a way to use them more effectively.
Not unlike my wife, the Patriots seem to always have a better idea.