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Recapping Day 1 of Bengals free agency

Breaking down Cincinnati’s moves from Monday.

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How’s this for progression?

In 2020, the Cincinnati Bengals sent shockwaves throughout the NFL by agreeing to terms with D.J. Reader and Trae Waynes about 28 hours after the legal tampering period opened. The franchise that has never partook in the early stage of free agency all of the sudden committed to their two biggest deals before the league year began.

In 2021, mere minutes after watching Carl Lawson leave for the New York Jets, they pivoted swiftly to Trey Hendrickson and sweetened his deal as legal tampering Monday turned into Monday night.

This year, legal tampering existed for about a minute when an announcement about Alex Cappa joining the Bengals came across the wire.

When you can almost feel the Lombardi trophy, the aggression knob gets turned to 11.

Cappa joining the Bengals as the team’s new right guard is the headlining acquisition so far for the Bengals. Here’s a quick rundown of everything else that happened on legal tampering Monday for Cincinnati’s best professional sports franchise.

Who was added

Alex Cappa: A fifth-year player out of Humboldt State (fun fact, their football program’s last season came a year after Cappa graduated), Cappa signed a four-year, $35 million deal with the Bengals. His deal has $4m in Pro Bowl incentives, so for every year he makes the Pro Bowl, $1m is added to the deal.

Cappa, who turned 27 this past January, will cost the Bengals $13.5m in cash this year and $6.75m against the cap.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Cappa in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Cappa started 46 games for the Bucs at right guard since the 2019 season. He figures to take over at that position in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future.

Ted Karras: A seventh-year player out of Illinois, Karras signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Bengals the day before his 29th birthday. He’s spent five of his first six seasons with the New England Patriots, who drafted him in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

By 2019, Karras emerged as the Patriots’ starting center, but the team allowed him to leave in free agency for a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins. He was the Dolphins’ center for the 2020 season before returning to New England last year, where he played left and right guard throughout the season.

Karras has experience at all three interior positions and is regarded as a highly-cerebral player. He’s projected to be the Bengals’ replacement for Trey Hopkins at center, but his versatility gives the team options. He’s scheduled to earn $7m in cash this year and account for $5m in cap dollars.

Who was let go

Larry Ogunjobi: The Chicago Bears swiftly signed Ogunjobi to a three-year, $40.5 million deal. The Bengals were in the mix to retain the pass-rushing defensive tackle, but his market went beyond their price range.

C.J. Uzomah: To the surprise of the Bengals and their fans, Uzomah signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the New York Jets. Uzomah was expected to be re-signed by the Bengals for a third contract, but they either didn’t expect his market to materialize so quickly, or the Jets offered something Uzomah couldn’t turn down.

Who was brought back

B.J. Hill: Once Ogunjobi jettisoned to Chicago, the attention of Paul Brown Stadium turned to getting Hill back in the fold. They were able to do so with a three-year, $30 million deal that pays Hill $15m in cash this year. His 2022 cap number remains unknown at this time.

Hill, who was traded to the Bengals for Billy Price last August, spent most of the 2021 season backing up and playing in tandem with Ogunjobi. He took over as the starting 3-technique after Ogunjobi suffered a season-ending foot injury in the playoffs and proved he could produce in a larger role. He will now get to do so for the next few years.

Fred Johnson: Before legal tampering ensued, the team placed an original-round tender on Johnson. The fourth-year offensive tackle was a restricted free agent, and he’s the only RFA the Bengals have tendered this far.

Considering Johnson was a healthy scratch for most of last season, the team’s decision to retain him for a cap number of $2.4m was a surprising one. Nevertheless, Johnson is expected to return this offseason.

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