The Bengals have plenty of needs they can fill in free agency, whether by signing internal free agents or signing free agents from the open market.
Over the last few years, the Bengals seem to fail at free agency more often than they succeed. Most of the Bengals’ best free agency signings have been players they’ve drafted, like Tyler Eifert. At best, some the players they sign are just not bad, like Brandon LaFell.
More often than not, players that the Bengals bring in end up in bad shape, like Bobby Hart.
ESPN’s Ben Baby wrote about the Bengals’ free agency successes and failures since 2015. Here’s what he said:
Best free-agent signing: LG Clint Boling. In 2015, the Bengals gave the offensive lineman a five-year, $26 million deal, the most total money given by the Bengals to any free agent during that span. It turned out to be a great investment. Boling started 62 of the next 64 games and retired before the 2019 season, the final year of his deal.
Worst free-agent signing: LB Preston Brown. The hometown linebacker was cut in the middle of 2019 after he signed a three-year contract worth $16.5 million. All of Cincinnati’s struggles can’t be pinned on Brown, but the defense made significant strides after his departure. Brown was picked up by Oakland and played one game before the Raiders cut him.
The Bengals re-signed Boling when he was playing with Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, and a younger Andre Smith. They all walked away after the 2015 season (even though Smith has had several other stints with the Bengals since), leaving Boling to be the one working piece on the offensive line. For the rest of his career, Boling was by far the best offensive lineman on the Bengals. He was also one of the few that could have been a starter on most other NFL teams.
You could really name any free agent linebacker the Bengals have signed over the years, like Karlos Dansby and Kevin Minter. But Brown stands out because they only signed one-year deals, while Brown signed a three-year contract. The others also played out their contracts, while Brown was cut in the middle of the first year of his contract.
The three-year deal was Brown’s second in Cincinnati, with his first coming the year before. He was injured before he could finish out his one-year contract, so the Bengals gave him a second chance. It worked out poorly for both parties.
When we look back at this offseason in five years, hopefully there wasn’t a worse signing than Brown.