Free agency is starting to hit its lull prior to the NFL Draft. Free agents are less likely to be signed as frequently with most teams starting to get more focused on the draft that is less than a month away. This makes it a great time to catch up on what has transpired so far for the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. Here is a brief look at each move they have made so far this offseason.
Free Agent Signings
This one may be a pretty sore spot for fans. It is too bad this move came on the heels of the Bengals losing out on the Carl Lawson sweepstakes, because Hendrickson is a quality player in his own right. He played on a talented defensive line, sure, but he did cash in on his many opportunities with 13.5 sacks in his first year as a full-time starter. Cincinnati is banking on him continuing that trend.
Cincinnati decided to take a chance on a talented young corner coming off a disappointing season. Awuzie dealt with hamstring issues as well as COVID-19 in 2020, but the ceiling is high for the 26-year-old. He was a Pro Football Focus darling prior to that season, and if he is able to stay healthy, the Bengals will reap the benefits of getting William Jackson’s replacement at a fraction of the cost.
Love it or hate it, Hilton coming over from the Steelers adds some much needed intensity that this defense is slowly getting more and more of. He is one of the best slot corners in the NFL, and that is an extremely valuable position in today’s NFL where teams are constantly fielding at least four wide receivers.
Ogunjobi is an interior defender with plenty of upside. He is coming off a rough season after being moved to nose tackle in 2020, but the former third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns will return to the 3-technique position in Cincinnati next to D.J. Reader. Ogunjobi had 11 sacks between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. There is reason to believe he should be a valuable interior pass rusher now that Geno Atkins is gone.
Reiff will be taking over Bobby Hart’s spot at right tackle. If you have watched any Bengals games over the past few seasons, you’ll know how huge of an upgrade that is. Reiff may not be a world class tackle anymore, or a long-term option, but he should give the team some flexibility in the 2021 draft as well as some much needed veteran leadership along the offensive line.
One of the biggest issues the Bengals had in 2020 on defense was their lack of depth at corner. This is a low risk/high reward move that at the very least provides some much needed depth at a position that a team can never have too much depth at.
Allen is a nice veteran addition that will likely fill the role left by Shawn Williams. He also has spent time as a nickel corner during his career, so that is some nice depth. This isn’t a move that will move the needle too much, but it one that helps fill a hole on the depth chart.
This is a no-brainer. Harris has been the definition of rock solid at a position where that is what you want and need.
Davis has spent some time bouncing around the NFL before landing on Cincinnati’s practice squad last season. He ended up starting a few games as well. He likely will have to fight for that roster spot again with all the additions made at the position, but at the very least he will be a nice player to add to the practice squad with his experience playing last season.
This seemed like it was bound to happen after his game against the Texans where he lit things up. Allen knows Zac Taylor’s system very well and he already has a rapport with Joe Burrow. Didn’t seem like the Bengals were looking to break the bank to upgrade the backup position despite how the team looked sans Burrow.
Wilson is one of the best returners in the NFL, and he has become a core special teamer as well. It is strange this team hasn’t found a way to use his wide variety of skills outside of special teams on a more regular basis (he played offense and defense in college), but at the very least he is dynamic as a returner.
Brown was a talented college player and he played in 13 games last year for the Bengals. He was a restricted free agent who re-signed very early on in the free agency period. He will likely be fighting for a spot on the roster via special teams in 2021.
Perine became a bigger name late in the 2020 season. He had a big game against the Texans (who didn’t?) where he had over 100 total yards and two touchdowns. He could be in line for a much bigger role with news that Cincinnati has been listening to offers for Giovani Bernard as well.
Thomas is a very low risk addition. He and Burrow apparently had a nice connection during the brief training camp prior to the 2020 season, but it never quite translated to the regular season. He still has plenty of experience with Taylor’s offense, and he isn’t a bad depth option.
Hometown punter who has been very reliable over his tenure with the team. No reason to try and shake the boat here, especially if he isn’t asking to break the bank to keep him.
Bengals got a heck of a deal to get Spain to return on such an affordable deal. He may not have finished 2020 strong, but he also bounced around the offensive line more than any Bengal last season. He showed plenty of promise and coming in to compete for a starting job under offensive line coach Frank Pollack is a great thing for Cincinnati.
Evans has become a very central piece to Cincinnati’s special teams. He doesn’t play many defensive snaps, but it is still nice to retain players who contribute on special teams.
Daniels joined the Bengals right before the 2020 season. He ended up starting 11 games, and was crucial when Reader landed on injured reserve and Atkins was limited due to injury. He and Ogunjobi should be a quality rotation at the 3-technique for Cincinnati in the 2021 season.
This wasn’t a very surprising move. Even when they Bengals acquired him via the Carlos Dunlap trade, it was theorized the most valuable part of adding him was going to be releasing him and saving just over $3 million in cap space. He never took an offensive snap last season.
Hart had improved some in 2020, and at times looked serviceable. Off the field issues combined with his inconsistent play made this an inevitable move, though. He should have never been slated as an unquestioned starter for so many seasons.
This was a painful one. Atkins was the most disruptive defender of the last decade for Cincinnati. Health had clearly caught up with him last season as he was clearly on a snap count. He will always be fondly remembered by this fan base, and he deserve to have success wherever he lands.
Finley’s entire perception changed on December 21st last season during a Monday Night Football game against the Steelers. In a game where the Bengals had no business even competing, Finley led them to an upset in Cincinnati. Finley also played a valuable role in 2019 starting several games that Andy Dalton may have been able to win, which allowed the Bengals to win the Joe Burrow sweepstakes. Finely probably shouldn’t have been traded up for in the 2019 draft, but at least he gave us that sweet sweet moment against the Steelers.
Big names who signed elsewhere
Lawson had become a fan-favorite, and he was one of the most disruptive players during his time in Cincinnati. His health and failure to finish pressures with sacks is unfortunate, but there is little doubt that if he gets a couple capable defensive linemen on the same line as him that he will prosper.
Green was the Bengals for the past decade. He grew with Cincinnati, and was the face of the franchise with Andy Dalton. It is a shame that none of those teams were able to get over the hump in the playoffs, but he was still a key piece in one of the best eras of Bengals’ football.
Jackson never seemed to click with this coaching staff, which is unfortunate because he really is a very talented player. There was never a doubt that he was going to get top dollar on the open market, and it was doubtful that Cincinnati would match that deal. Instead the Bengals took that money and added Hilton and Awuzie. They also gave Trae Waynes a significant contract last offseason that didn’t leave much room for Jackson. We will see how that strategy plays out.