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NFL Free Agency grade roundup: Bengals’ baby steps aren’t enough

The Bengals have been clearly nudged in the right direction, but the national media still isn’t a big fan of their offseason.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

NFL free agency is winding down as teams start to focus more on the draft.

Some deals remain to be made, but overall the major moves that national outlets are interested in are over. That means they have graded the Bengals’ performance.

Now not every outlet goes about ranking teams the same way. Some grade the overall team performance, while some pick and choose which signings to grade. It is also important to consider that some of these outlets released these grades prior to the re-signings of Tyler Eifert and Darqueze Dennard.

Here are the grades for the Bengal’s overall performance:

Washington Post Grade: C

The Bengals had plenty of cap room but elected to stay quiet in free agency. They signed John Miller to start at guard, and B.W. Webb at cornerback.

Bleacher Report Grade: F

They kept Dalton, Green, Atkins and Dunlap at a combined average annual value of $60.9 million but didn’t use any of their cap space to improve the pieces around them. They released the troubled but talented Vontaze Burfict, they lost tight end Tyler Kroft to Buffalo and they overpaid to keep below-average starters Preston Brown and Bobby Hart. Another stagnant offseason indicates the Bengals seem satisfied with being the worst team in the AFC North.

Here are the outlets who graded specific signings:

Pro Football Focus Overall: 2 below average and 1 poor signing

Although Brown’s season was cut short due to injury and he played fewer than 1,000 snaps for the first time in his career, the Bengals have seen enough from him to give him a long-term contract. Even in his limited time, Brown impressed in coverage as he tied his career-high two interceptions and earned his highest coverage grade since his rookie campaign a season ago. It’s a decent amount of cash to hand over to someone who’s only flashed good coverage skills at times in his career. Especially in today’s NFL.

(Preston Brown and B.W. Webb’s deal were viewed as below average and Bobby Hart’s contract was viewed as poor)

SB Nation on Bobby Hart deal: Short-term C-/ Long-term C

Hart played himself up from a seventh-round pick to a capable, if not super impressive, starting tackle. He impressed the Bengals enough to turn last offseason’s one-year deal into a three year, $21 million+ contract in Cincinnati. That’s top-10 right tackle money for a guy who might only be top 30. It’s a very “same ol’ Bengals” move for a team trying to escape the long shadow of the Marvin Lewis era — but Hart still has some room to improve and live up to his big contract.

ESPN on Hart deal: D-

Hart hasn’t shown much suggesting he’s even a competent NFL tackle. Incoming offensive line coach Jim Turner hand-waved away the concerns about sacks and pressures by talking about how Hart has played with passion, but the bottoms of NFL rosters and practice squads are full of players who have passion. It’s not hard to find a player who cares. The Bengals are paying Hart to be an effective NFL lineman, and he simply isn’t one. I can’t imagine that Cincinnati guaranteed more than one season to Hart as part of this three-year pact. Since he is just 24, the Bengals would be in position to keep Hart around if he does break out, but this doesn’t appear to solve Cincinnati’s offensive line woes. If anything, the signing solidifies them.

The one constant thing is no one seems to think the Bengals did a great job at getting better through free agency. Even when you consider them re-signing players like Eifert and Dennard it likely wouldn’t change their thoughts on that front.

The thing is when you compare it to typical Bengals’ offseasons, this one has been pretty active. They brought in two outside free agents fairly early in guard John Miller and cornerback B.W. Webb. Neither player was a huge name, but these aren’t typically moves they’d make in recent offseasons.

You could also look at the players they’ve reportedly shown interest in. Edge rushers Shaq Barrett and Vinny Curry both visited Cincinnati before opting for one-year prove it deals elsewhere. It is pretty easy to infer that the Bengals likely tried to lock them into a multi-year deal that wasn’t up to snuff with what they thought they could be worth next season.

The thing is Cincinnati will never be a team that goes out and brings in one of the big name free agents. While the confusing contracts for Bobby Hart and Preston Brown weren’t exactly ideal, the Bengals have shown a willingness to at least go out there and dangle a few contracts around to outside free agents.

It is easy to say they still aren’t quite active enough, but at east they are taking some baby steps in the right direction.