Are you out of breath? Because we are.
The Cincinnati Bengals have signed eight external free agents since the legal tampering period opened just over eight days ago. Including franchise player A.J. Green and restricted free agents such as Brandon Wilson and Josh Tupou, the Bengals have agreed to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $150 million in total over the next handful of years on the players they’ve signed this week.
For any other NFL team, that’s a big amount. For the Bengals, you’d need a cosmic scale to appropriately weigh it.
A lot has changed, and a number of Bengals who watched free agency go down have been affected whether they know it or not. Let’s take a look at who’s a winner and who’s a loser following a historic week in Bengals history.
Joe Burrow: Eh? You like what you see Joe? Cincinnati can throw Benjamins just as easily as they do in South Beach.
Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo: This is Taylor’s offseason. From the onset of February, you’ve heard rumblings and chatter about being more prepared and organized to tackle the beast of free agency. Bengals fans see better than they hear, and they’ve seen quite a lot. Taylor (and while we’re at it, Duke Tobin) has backed up his words and made his stamp on the Bengals’ hopeful revitalization in his second season.
Taylor leaves the defense to its coordinator in Anarumo, and this free agency has primarily been about revamping that side of the ball. On all three levels, the Bengals’ defense has improved, and Anarumo should have less trouble implementing the scheme he envisions in Cincinnati. After hopefully adding a speedy linebacker in the NFL Draft, things should start clicking sooner rather than later.
Bobby Hart: With legitimate options available on the market, the Bengals kept their word and ignored the offensive tackle position in free agency. A competition with Fred Johnson is the reality Hart is facing, and that’s the best he can hope for at this point. Still, he doesn’t have anyone else to worry about unless a tackle happens to fall to the Bengals in the draft.
Geno Atkins: Domata Peko had some good years in him, but has Atkins ever had the luxury of playing next to another great defensive tackle like D.J. Reader? The answer is no. For years the front office has attempted to pair their All-Pro 3-technique with a competent big body to plug A gaps and strike through B gaps, but consistently failed. The signing of Reader is a long overdue solution to this quandary and should help Atkins continue to succeed in the twilight of his career.
Drew Sample: Tyler Eifert’s exodus was an inevitability and a clear display of the team’s willingness to bank on Sample’s development. With the tight end position unlikely to be addressed early in the draft, Sample seems to have secured his spot as the No. 2 tight end in an offense that really only uses one. But hey, that’s better for him than if Eifert returned.
Germaine Pratt: It wasn’t much, but linebacker Josh Bynes is an improvement over Preston Brown, Nick Vigil and the other corpses Pratt was playing next to last season. Pratt figured to be starting next year at middle linebacker regardless of how they addressed the position, but Bynes is a fine stop-gap option to work in tandem with the third-round pick from a year ago.
THE FANS: You. Yes, you! You’re a winner! You watched the Bengals come out from the rock they’ve been living under for the past 25-or-so years. They didn’t fill every one of the billion holes they have, but they managed to set themselves up incredibly nicely for the draft, and maybe, just maybe, restore your faith in them. They just want your money; will you resume giving it to them?
Andy Dalton: It’s a good thing Dalton finished his Bengals career as a winner because he’s been losing this entire offseason. He watched the Chicago Bears trade for Nick Foles, the Indianapolis Colts sign Philip Rivers, and the New England Patriots basically reject the idea of him replacing Tom Brady. There just isn’t a logical trade partner for the 32-year old quarterback anymore. The Jacksonville Jaguars could give up a pick to reunite him with Eifert and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, but what leverage do the Bengals have left? His release is on the horizon and he’ll have to sign somewhere for significantly less money than what he was scheduled to make this season.
And no, he’s not going to be on this team this year. Don’t fall for those rumors.
Dre Kirkpatrick: Even if Kirkpatrick remains with the team, which seems to be a complete unknown at this moment, he probably watched his starting job go to Trae Waynes. Of course if Kirkpatrick becomes a reserve and proceeds to take home the $9.7 million in cash he’s scheduled to make this year, there’s an argument for him belonging in the winners section of this article. The likelier option is the team re-structuring his deal or just releasing him sometime before the season begins. The status quo has changed for No. 27 either way.
Shawn Williams: Bengals fans rejoiced when free agent safety Vonn Bell agreed to a three-year $18M contract with the club, but this probably doesn’t bode well for one of Cincinnati’s most experienced veterans. Williams and his $4.5M cap hit have either found themselves on the chopping block or as a full-time linebacker. Williams had his worst year as a starter last year when he was almost exclusively a box player, so it’s not like the switch looks good on paper. His future is as uncertain as Kirkpatrick’s.
Joe Mixon: There’s been no change in the Bengals’ plans; they still want to extend Mixon this summer. With the way free agency played out for running backs all over the league, that deal will probably be more manageable for the Bengals and less lucrative for Mixon. He’s entering the pay day window at the worst time for his position, and that’s simply unfortunate.