The Bengals decided they still wanted to try to win as many games as possible, despite the bad start to the season. However, at the end of the season, the 2-14 Bengals, 8-8 Steelers, and every team in between were in the same position: eliminated from the playoffs.
So some Bengals fans figured that since this season was already over, why not try and build for next season. Trade all the veterans, like Tyler Eifert, Carlos Dunlap, Andy Dalton, and even A.J. Green.
Duke Tobin, Bengals Director of Player Personnel, didn’t think that was solution.
“We are not trying to get better by losing our best players. In our opinion, that’s not the path forward,” said Tobin, via the team’s website. “Lose your best players, how do you get better by doing that? We have guys who clearly some teams were interested in. Well guess what? We are interested in having them, too. They are good players.”
It may seem like Tobin is only worried about the current season, but he indicates here that he is concerned about the Bengals’ “turnaround.”
“We weren’t good enough as a football team. Now if we’re going to lose players, how does that improve us? I don’t think any of those (veterans) are done. We think all those guys have life in their NFL career and are going to be a part of our turnaround as we go.”
Notice that in the quotes above, Tobin never says “trade,” but he says “losing” or “lose” three times. A trade is equal to a loss.
Tobin is correct that trading talented players can destroy the current season, he fails to mention, or realize, the long-term benefit that it can have. Trades are not just about talent alone, they are also about draft capital and cap space.
The Bengals won two games with the players they have, and lot of their veterans are eating up their cap space. They could have traded away some of their larger contracts, acquired draft picks to add more players, and gain more cap space to sign premium free agents. Not to mention that most of the players mentioned in trade rumors were in their early-to-mid thirties. If the Bengals traded one of those players for draft picks, then they could use it to acquire younger players that can last longer in the league.
If the Bengals approach trading as simply “losing our best players,” then that explains a lot about the way the franchise operates.