After an 0-5 start, the already present refrains of “Trade AJ!” are getting louder and louder, but should the Bengals entertain trade offers for their top players?
The short answer is “yes,” but that is a bit simplistic.
Yes, the Bengals and any other team should hear trade offers all of the time. It does not matter if they were 0-5 or 5-0.
After going to the conference championship game, the Patriots traded their best pass rusher Chandler Jones in March of 2016. During the ensuing season, the Patriots traded Jamie Collins, who at the time was considered one of the best linebackers in the NFL. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that season. Neither trade had a direct positive impact on the field for the Patriots so you could certainly question the value, but the Patriots of course still went on to win a championship.
The Bengals are not the Patriots and if they were to trade a key player this year, a suitable replacement would not likely emerge. The point is that good teams make moves when they feel they need to and the Bengals and any other team should constantly be thinking about improving their team, for both the short and long-term.
Some have said that the Bengals are 2-3 years away from being competitive. Personally, I don’t think that anybody is three years away from being competitive if they have good coaching and good quarterback play. These are things that the Bengals do not currently possess, but certainly could in a year’s time.
Fans should expect more. Yeah, I know, expectations are tough with this ownership. Nevertheless, teams can get better and in a hurry, especially with an upgrade at quarterback.
A common opinion is that the Bengals should trade all of their best players to collect draft picks, but the problem is they still need to turn these draft picks into players. If not, they would just be creating another hole. They’d be getting worse.
The Dolphins have already traded both Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. These are good young players at key positions. The Dolphins got worse in the short-term for these losses.
Of course, the Tunsil trade was related to the extension he was seeking and given the haul they got for him, you can’t blame the Dolphins for trading him.
Fitzpatrick claimed that he wanted out because he didn’t like his usage, but make no mistake, he played at Alabama and couldn’t stand playing for an NFL team that wasn’t even trying to win. This probably could have been avoided. True, they got a first-round pick, but any team would be ecstatic if their first-round pick turned into Fitzpatrick.
Odds are that if they use that pick, they will not get a better player than Fitzpatrick. Only the acquisition of a franchise quarterback would be worth it, but they are likely going to have a top-two pick with their own selection, so the Steelers pick isn’t getting them their trigger man,
Teams should not trade players just because their season is lost. They should trade players because it makes sense for their team.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who the Bengals could look to trade.
Green is the most popular player that has been suggested for a potential going back all the way into the summer. Green is in a contract year, has had multiple injuries in recent years, and is not getting any younger. Also the Bengals just committed to Tyler Boyd with a contract extension.
Should the Bengals trade Green? Absolutely! But only for the right price.
Some analysts and insiders suggest that he could bring in a first-round pick. If that is true, then “sold!”
I really doubt that is the case, however.
This is a very human problem. We think of all of the reasons why we want to trade a player and don’t realize that all of these same things will effect his value.
Green isn’t going anywhere unless he can get on the field, so let’s start there. Nobody is going to pay a worthy price for him unless they have evidence that he is physically able to play this season.
If he comes back and looks like his old self for a few weeks without any additional injuries, then sure, a competitive team may be willing to make a move to beef up their roster to make a playoff run. And then, if someone comes in with a strong offer, the Bengals should absolutely be receptive.
At the same time, if they have no intent or ability to sign him this offseason they could move on for less, but I doubt that is the case. My guess is that Green returns in 2020.
Atkins is the best player on the team and thus the best trade chip that they have. However, Atkins has multiple good years ahead of him and is under contract through 2022.
Because of his immense talent level, Atkins makes up for a lot of other problems that this defense has. Let’s put it this way: If you want to have the first pick in the draft, trading Atkins is a sure fire way to get it—but to be clear, it will be your original pick, not one that you acquired.
If the Bengals moved on from him they would not only need a new 3-technique, they would need to get upgrade their front seven overall with players who are much better at defending both the run and the pass than the players they currently have.
Honestly, replacing him with two new starting linebackers, a pass rusher, and a decent 3-technique would be, at best, a lateral move.
I am not saying that Atkins should not be traded under any circumstance. However, if Atkins is traded, there had better be an unmistakably large haul coming in.
For example: multiple first-round picks? That is a conversation. Outside of that, it would make more sense to hold on to him for now. If the Bengals were able to put together a few wins this season and won themselves out of range of the quarterback prospect they coveted, that would be a reason to deal Atkins.
That would provide a clear outcome and a purpose for the move, which is what you should be looking for if you are trading an elite player.
This one may make the most sense. He is only on a one-year contract and they are barely using him.
The only issue is that no one showed much interest in the offseason and he has done nothing to draw interest this year. If he could have one dominant performance to show he is capable of being his old self, then this could be a real possibility.
The Rob Gronkowski-less Patriots are an obvious potential trade partner. The Patriots have been known for making moves like this. In the last year they acquired top receivers like Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown to put more weapons around Tom Brady. If Eifert can show that he is anything like his old self, this move would be intriguing league wide.
The Bengals aren’t using Eifert much, and he is a free agent after the season, so there really isn’t much to lose. If they could get a third or fourth-round pick, they should pull a Steve Miller Band: take the money and run.
William Jackson III
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote about this recently. In the same article he suggested they an A.J. trade, so apparently Sam is on board with the “burn it to the ground” team building philosophy that is currently popular on Bengals Twitter.
This one doesn’t make a lot of sense to me though. Jackson is one of the Bengals best young players and plays a high-value position. You would certainly want him to be part of the team’s next wave.
The Bengals picked up his fifth-year option, so he will be a bit more expensive next season and need a new contract the year after that. But this is a guy who you pay to keep.
Without Jackson, the Bengals would have a need at cornerback. Dre Kirkpatrick is a solid CB2 and I’d love to see more of Darius Phillips, but Jackson has shown he can be a lock-down/shut-down player and that guy is hard to come by.
Are you kidding me?
If the season is lost and the plan is to move on from Dalton in the offseason, then by all means...but who would make this trade?
Sure, a playoff team could lose their starter and look to make a desperate move to save their season, but this move is unlikely.
The stigma of Dalton is his playoff record, so why would somebody bring him in to save their team and win games for them in the playoffs?
Dalton may get traded at some point, but not during the season.
Trading away your best players because the team is not competitive is a knee-jerk reaction. The Bengals and every other team should consider trades, but only if they make sense for the future of the franchise.
Blindly accumulating draft picks with no end game in mind is not a sound team building strategy.