The start of the Cincinnati Bengals’ free agency moves seemed like one of the worst starts imaginable. We all knew safety Jessie Bates was going to get a top safety contract somewhere else, but the loss of safety Vonn Bell and tight end Hayden Hurst also leaving really stung.
Thankfully, the Bengals were able to hold onto linebacker Germaine Pratt while also bringing in offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and safety Nick Scott.
This has some fans up in arms about what the team hasn’t done as tight end is still a massive hole, and the team still has questions at right tackle with offensive tackle Jonah Williams requesting a trade so he can stay at left tackle.
However, Pro Football Focus gave the Bengals an A- grade so far in the offseason.
One of the biggest pluses has been the signing of Brown. Even if he isn’t viewed as the top tackle in the NFL.
While the league has clearly made a statement that they don’t view Brown as an elite left tackle, Cincinnati gets great value on a very good player here. Brown has five straight seasons with a pass-block grade of 73.5 or better and has played over 1,000 snaps in four straight years.
It seems as though Brown’s market at left tackle wasn’t as robust. He mentioned how important staying at left tackle and playing for a winner was to him, and Cincinnati was the best option for both of those things.
What may be surprising to some is how much PFF loves Pratt, especially after last season.
Pratt’s 80.6 overall grade in 2022 was nearly a 30-point jump over his previous career high, and while he was given favorable matchups and not always involved on third downs, his 90.1 coverage grade was also a major improvement, as he showed he can hold up in zone despite playing at more of a throwback size at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.
For those who want to see top-level linebacker play, watch Pratt pre-snap during games. He may not be calling the plays, but he is often adjusting a defensive lineman, calling out what is coming or running over to get in prime position to blow a play up.
Not to mention he is probably the best tackler on the team. You can probably count on one hand how many times he has let a ball carrier fall forward. Now with this increase in his coverage grade in a limited role, he has all the potential to be part of the rock-solid foundation for this defense going forward.
We are only partway through the offseason. The Bengals still have plenty of time to bring in more players via the NFL Draft and sign some bargain-bin free agents who can easily find roles with this team that is going through its first real phase of adjustment since they’ve become contenders.