After a sluggish start to 2023 free agency, the Cincinnati Bengals awakened in a violent way with a huge signing on Wednesday night. In case you missed it, the team snagged one of the best overall free agents on the open market and tabbed Orlando Brown, Jr. as their new left tackle.
While the Bengals have a number of tough decisions to make, both in terms of salary cap numbers and configurations up front, we’re mulling the impact of this particular move. Even in the wake of so many big moves in the past few years, is this the biggest external free agent move ever by the Cincinnati Bengals?
Now, there are a number of factors to apply here. Aside from overall ability, player notoriety, contract numbers, impending role, and positional value all play into the equation.
For reference, true NFL Free Agency as we know it started back in March of 1993. Bengals owner Mike Brown wasn’t a fan of the process in its infancy, but boy, has Cincinnati completely changed its stance on the process.
In the last three offseasons, the Bengals have particularly employed Adam Dunn-like swings for the fences. Before landing Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson as headliners of their 2020 NFL Draft class, Cincinnati spent big money on D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes and Vonn Bell in outside free agency.
They followed those up with gets like Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton and Larry Ogunjobi. Quite honestly, since Zac Taylor’s regime took over the Bengals, they not only have been uber-aggressive in external free agency, but they’ve nailed almost every signing in a big way.
So, with Brown, Jr. in the fold, the big question is if he is the biggest free agent acquisition by the club? We’re leaving out re-signings of internal free agents here, and while there haven’t been a slew of big external free agent signings, Cincinnati has had their share of notable outside gets—especially of late.
Some food for thought:
Sam Adams: The big nose tackle definitely makes a run for the physically biggest free agent signing with Brown. He only lasted a year with the Bengals (after a three-year deal was signed), but brought both Pro Bowl and All-Pro designations with him, as he reunited with Marvin Lewis.
Terrell Owens: “T.O.” definitely brought the notoriety, hype and excitement for Bengals nation with his contract back in the 2010 season. Teaming him up with Chad Johnson and having Carson Palmer at the helm was a huge deal and, despite the team disappointing and Owens’ not finishing the year, he provided sparks. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million and had 72 catches, 983 yards and nine touchdowns in his final NFL season.
Adam Jones: In the mid and late-2000s, the Bengals were on a reclamation tour. Jones was one of their projects and he paid off big-time. He made a Pro Bowl as a return man in 2015 and lasted with the team for a total of eight seasons as an effective corner and special teams player.
Thomas Howard: When you think of value and production comparative to his contract, Howard is up there. He had an insane six-interception season with the Raiders in 2007, but signed a two-year deal with the Bengals. In 2011, Howard had a production season with Cincinnati, before landing on I.R. in 2012 and tragically losing his life in an auto accident in 2012.
James Harrison: While the scheme fit wasn’t there, Harrison still brought that Steel City swagger to Cincinnati. A “Hard Knocks” favorite, Harrison was up-and-down in Mike Zimmer’s defense.
D.J. Reader: Unfortunately for guys like Reader, quantifying the value of nose tackles can be tricky. But, when Reader signed a four-year, $53 million contract in 2020, everyone knew a stud was on their hands. Cincinnati has routinely been stout against the run since and Reader is a huge reason why.
Vonn Bell: The hard-hitting safety was not only a team captain, but was credited with one of the franchise’s directional-turning plays in recent history. Bell came up with huge play after huge play the past three years and was a clutch signing.
Never forget pic.twitter.com/uP8wb9pAmE— Anthony Cosenza (@CJAnthonyCUI) March 13, 2023
Trey Hendrickson: After losing Carl Lawson in free agency to the Jets, Bengals fans well, lost it. They quickly sprung to action, signing Hendrickson, who had a quality 2020 season with the Saints. Since, Hendrickson has two Pro Bowl nominations with the Bengals and 22 sacks since joining the club.
Orlando Brown, Jr.: The big guy has made four Pro Bowls, while also winning a Super Bowl. He has been very effective as both a right and left tackle in the NFL, with Cincinnati pegging him as their 2023 left tackle. With $31 million guaranteed, this is uncharted waters for the Bengals.
Is Brown, Jr. the biggest free agent signing in Bengals’ history? Sound off in the comments!
Is Orlando Brown, Jr. the biggest Bengals free agent signing ever?
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