The Bengals have long been known by the NFL and their own fans as a pretty frugal franchise to put it nicely. They have really attempted to change that notion by spending these last couple of offseasons, though.
Even still, when Mike Tanier of ESPN Football Outsiders put together an all-value team for 2021, Cincinnati ended up with two players on the team.
The first is a name many Cincinnati fans are familiar with.
Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver
Contract: Four years, $43 million, $9 million guaranteed, expires after 2023 season
Boyd has caught 245 passes since 2018, the 12th-highest total in the NFL during that span. He’s one of the league’s most consistent, reliable receivers, but he has always been a nominal No. 2 guy — first behind A.J. Green, now behind rookie Ja’Marr Chase. Boyd accepted No. 2 receiver money when he signed his current deal in 2019, and the Bengals have reaped the rewards ever since.
The Bengals are usually big about avoiding huge guaranteed money in contracts. That didn’t end up being a killer for Boyd who took a very reasonable deal back before the 2019 season. He has played well since signing the deal, and he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.
Boyd is one of the NFL’s best slot wide receivers. He has such a knack for catching balls in traffic, finding the little openings in the zone and picking up extra yards after the catch.
His deal is currently ranked 18th in total value at $43 million, according to Over the Cap, and plenty of that has to do with new guys getting extensions or free agent deals recently. There is no doubt this is a team-friendly deal now, but Boyd will easily have another payday down the road.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
Contract: Three years, $21.7 million, $7.5 million guaranteed, expires after 2023 season
Targeting young free agents coming off bad seasons in an offseason when few teams had money to spend is a sound strategy. Awuzie, like many of the veterans on this list (Lockett, Brockers, Andrews, Lawson, etc.), hit the free-agent market at the worst possible time. The Bengals are one of many teams that could reap the benefits for years to come.
You could make the argument that Cincinnati ending up with Awuzie and Mike Hilton in free agency for roughly what former-Bengal William Jackson got with Washington was one of the best moves they made this offseason.
Awuzie specifically seems like a fairly safe bet to bounce back to form after having a rough 2020 due to injury and a poor defense in Dallas. He currently ranks 27th in contract total value for cornerbacks, and if he returns to form it would look incredible for the Bengals defense to still have a very good corner on the perimeter while gaining one of the best slot corners in the NFL.
The Bengals still have plenty of work to do with contracts. Jessie Bates and the team are still looking to get an extension done before the season starts. When you have a team as young as they do, you have to be able to hit on these team-friendly deals in order to eventually be able to afford guys like Bates and eventually Joe Burrow. This may not be the last offseason we see them spend.