Coming off just their second 2-14 season in franchise history, the Cincinnati Bengals are undoubtedly entering a rebuilding phase. The consolation in it all is the sheer layup they have in front of them to get it started on the right foot.
Not every year does the team with the first pick in the NFL Draft have the option to draft a quarterback worthy of that pick. The inevitable marriage between the Bengals and Joe Burrow has been written in the stars for months now, and when it becomes consummated in late April, it will be one of the easiest decisions the franchise has ever made.
So, how can they screw it all up? Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com has the perfect plan all laid out and we’ve provided the spark notes for your reading pleasure. Admittedly, it does start out pretty good:
Step One: Trade Andy Dalton
With this shaping up as an offseason unlike any other when it comes to quarterback movement/free agency/possible retirement, the Bengals need to act fast here and be proactive. Try to get a second-round pick from the Bears – who recently hired Bill Lazor, who is very close with Dalton from coaching him in Cincy, to run their offense. They have picks 43 and 50 – maybe target 50.
Trading Dalton for a second-round pick would undoubtedly be ideal. This is likely where the negotiations start for any team and the final compensation will end up slightly lower, but this is the best case scenario for Cincinnati. A reunion between Dalton and one of his old offensive coordinators on a team that’s well-built outside of the AFC is the ideal landing spot for both parties. The Bengals will want to do right by their former franchise quarterback, and this would surely qualify as doing that.
Step Two: Trade for Cam Newton
Say what now?
If Mike Brown is stuck in enough to actually tag A.J. Green in order to keep him, then go rent Newton for a year. Offer the Panthers three second-round picks. The Bengals already have the first pick of the second round this year, and the first pick of the third round. Maybe you get it done for pick 50 plus those two and something in the future? I don’t know, get creative. With Newton’s health a thing, getting pick 33 is essentially like a first-round pick. (Heck, maybe the Panthers want maximum draft capital now to go up and try to get Burrow themselves, given his relationship with Panthers new offensive coordinator Joe Brady).
Instead of using some of the draft capital from the Dalton trade to build around Burrow...use it trade for another quarterback with one year left on his contract? At one point, Newton was legitimately one of the best players in the NFL. Period. Even with his current injuries, he’s still capable of being a high-end starter. Will he ever be the same guy he was at his peak? Probably not. But this writer has nothing but good things to say about the former MVP.
With that said, this just shouldn’t happen. At all. The appeal in trading for Newton comes with an assumed inability to draft a potential franchise quarterback this year. No team is in a better position to do that exact action than the Bengals. Aside from that, while the Bengals don’t care about outside noise, they aren’t completely tone deaf and would realize going with the 30-year old Newton as opposed to the Ohio-born Burrow would instill chaos amongst their fanbase, and that’s putting it mildly.
But hey, they still have the first pick to draft Burrow and use Newton as a bridge QB right?
Step Three: Trade the first-overall pick
In this scenario, it’s time for the Bengals to do what the Rams did all those many years ago, when they basically auctioned off the second-overall pick for the right to draft RG3.
The Skins dealt three first-round picks and a second-round pick to move from sixth overall to second overall to take Robert Griffin back in 2012. I would bet the Bengals could get another second-round pick thrown into the pot for this selection, which more than makes up for what we have going out for Newton. Plus, by the spring of 2021, they might be able to get another first-round pick for Newton. And, this is the rare year where it is already an absolute certainty that there is a QB worthy of the first-overall pick waiting on the other side in the 2020 draft. Trevor Lawrence may very well prove to be an even more sure-first prospect, and the Bengals will be loaded with more draft capital than you could imagine.
Normally, I would never support passing on a potential superstar QB, But 2020 is not a normal year, with guys like Tom Brady and Philip Rivers and Jameis Winston and Newton and Derek Carr and Dalton and Teddy Bridgewater all possibly changing teams, and Drew Brees possibly joining Eli Manning in retirement. Options abound, and Lawrence is still stuck waiting to join the party until 2021.
This is Peter Griffin passing on a boat for a mystery box that could hold a boat inside of it. You don’t pass on a golden ticket because you believe another one will be around the next time. Just look at Tua Tagovailoa. The teams who passed on a quarterback last year with the intention of targeting Tagovailoa are incredibly lucky that his hip injury wasn’t more serious than it was.
What’s to say something similar won’t happen to Trevor Lawrence? In passing the opportunity to draft Burrow, the Bengals will be banking on not only Lawrence’s health in 2020, but the hope that they’ll be able to trade up for him or be bad enough to take him with the first pick.
Not only do no NFL teams operate like this, the average fan wouldn’t sign off on this plan.
La Canfora’s plan would indeed be bold and shake up the NFL, but it’s the equivalent of passing up a breakaway dunk for a contested corner three. And it’s insulting to even contemplate.