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Tuesday Trenches: Offseason Blues

Only 103 more days until the Bengals take the field in their regular-season opener against the Browns.

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL Draft is over. Free agency is still ongoing, but the players still available won’t be signed until training camps begin in July.

The exciting part of free agency has come and gone. The schedule has been released. What is there to look forward to now?

Answer: the beginning of the 2023 season.

And that’s still over 100 days away.

Sorry if that bums you out. I know it bums me out.

But there are things to talk about. So let's talk about them.

Ring of Honor

The Cincinnati Bengals announced the list of nominees, two of which will be enshrined on the Bengals ring of honor at Paycor Stadium. Already enshrined are Paul Brown, Anthony Muñoz, Ken Anderson, Ken Riley, Isaac Curtis, and Willie Anderson. The names being voted on right now by season-ticket holders are:

  • Kicker Jim Breech
  • Running back James Brooks
  • Wide receiver Cris Collinsworth
  • Running back Corey Dillon
  • Quarterback Boomer Esiason
  • Safety David Fulcher
  • Wide receiver Chad Johnson
  • Nose tackle Tim Krumrie
  • Guard Dave Lapham
  • Guard Max Montoya
  • Cornerback/return specialist Lemar Parrish
  • Tight end Bob Trumpy
  • Linebacker Reggie Williams

The two players with the most votes will go on the Ring of Honor this season. There is a case to be made for, and probably against, each player on this list. Boomer is one of three quarterbacks to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl and was a one-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler, was the NFL Man of the Year in 1995, and was the NFL MVP in 1988. He should be on the list, considering he was the most important player on the team when he was on the roster.

I think Chad will get a lot of votes because he’s Chad. I mean, he is the franchise’s leader in receiving yards with 10,783. And he’s one of the most dynamic personalities the NFL has had over the last 20 years. He ushered in a whole new age of popularity for the Bengals and had done so much, and continues to do so much for the franchise.

He will be on the ring of honor, but I think this year, it needs to be Leapin’ Lemar, right?

Parrish retired as a three-time All Pro, two-time second-team All Pro, and an eight-time Pro Bowler. He holds the franchise record for most return or recovery touchdowns, with 13. He has the fifth most interceptions in the team’s history with 25 (he finished his career with 47). He had multiple games where he scored multiple touchdowns in different ways.

In 1970, Parrish scored on a 95-yard kickoff return and on an 83-yard field goal that was blocked in one game against the Bills. He ran back two interceptions for touchdowns against the Oilers in 1972, and in 1974 he scored on a 93-yard punt return and returned a fumble for a 47-yard touchdown in a game against the Washington Commanders (then Redskins).

So basically, he was not only a great cornerback, but he was one of the most electric return men in the NFL.

Chad’s got a lot of chances to make the Ring of Honor. Maybe he will in 2024. Parrish needs to go up in 2023.

Rule Changes

There have been some rule changes that will take place in the 2023 season. Some will change the way the game is played, some really don’t change a thing. They are:

  • Players can now wear the number “0”
  • There will be an adjustment of the play clock after an instant replay reversal
  • The replay official can now review failed fourth-down attempts
  • The definition of “launching” is now leaving one or both feet.
  • A forward handoff is now illegal and the same as an illegal forward pass.
  • Illegal punts, drop-kicks, or placekicks are now penalized the same as an illegal forward pass.
  • Offenses cannot benefit from an extension of the half as a result of a penalty on the offense itself.
  • The Competition Committee added the words “but, rams, and spear” to the rules about the Impermissible Use of the Helmet.
  • A player can now call a fair catch on a kickoff short of the goal line, and the ball will be automatically placed at the 25-yard line, akin to a touchback.

Most of these rules don’t matter. I didn’t know players couldn’t wear “0” already. I think 88 percent (eight of the nine) of these rule changes are fine. They don’t really change anything, and if they do, the change is minimal.

The other 12 percent sucks. I don’t really like the fair catch on a kickoff rule because it basically eliminates the play. Why would you catch a kickoff and even attempt to run it back when you can get the ball at the 25-yard line without spending a single second of time? You wouldn’t. I understand player safety concerns, but aren’t there ways to address that without just eliminating the play altogether? What if they did what the XFL did with kickoffs?

The kicker is on the 30-yard line, but the other 10 players on the kickoff team are at the opponent’s 35-yard line, just five yards away from the kick return team. Only the kicker and returner can move until the ball is fielded and touchbacks go out to the 35-yard line instead of the 25. This way, players don’t get an insane running start when they start plowing into each other. It wouldn’t be much more than the hits offensive and defensive players take on every play in the box.

I like that better than just eliminating the play with a rule change.

Remaining free agents

As I said earlier, free agency, for the most part (at least the exciting part), has run its course. There are players still available, several big names among them, and many will still be signed, but not right away. Those guys will sign on the dotted line when camps open and injuries start piling up, or when coaches see their team lacking while in camp, and in need of veteran help. Could the Bengals make more moves? Of course, and they absolutely will. The real question is whether or not they’ll sign one of those big names. Big names like:

Deandre Hopkins, WR: They won’t sign Hopkins. They don’t need Hopkins. I just mention Hopkins because he’s reportedly being sought after by the Ravens and Bills, among others. The Ravens and Bills are two of the most significant teams standing in the Bengals’ way to a third consecutive AFC Championship appearance.

Chances: 0 of 10

Taylor Lewan, OT: Before the Orlando Brown Jr. signing: Yes. After: no. They’re set at left tackle now, and they have three guys competing for the right tackle position, two of which are long-time starters in the NFL. Long answer, short: No.

Chances: 0 of 10

Leonard Floyd, LB: The Bengals re-signed Germaine Pratt, and hopefully, they can extend Logan Wilson. If they can’t, they still have at least one year, possibly two with the franchise tag left with Wilson, though. No need for Floyd.

Chances: 0 of 10

Ezekiel Elliot, RB: Here’s one I could see happening. The Bengals have a money issue with Joe Mixon, and Mixon is still facing potential legal issues. They could save a ton of money if they cut him after June 1. If they do, Elliot wouldn’t be much of an upgrade or a downgrade, but he’d be cheaper. He also would be a better pass blocker, which has been an issue of Mixon’s. So, maybe? I doubt it, but maybe.

Chances: 4 of 10

Marcus Peters, CB: The Bengals came into the offseason with a cornerback depth issue, but that issue has been largely taken care of. They signed free agent Sydney Jones IV, and they selected DJ Turner and DJ Ivey in the second and seventh rounds of the draft, respectively. They still have Chidobe Awuzie, who is coming back from a season-ending injury, but there’s hope he’ll be ready for the season. If there wasn’t hope, then yes. Since there is hope, no, but weirder things have happened.

Chances: 4 of 10

Jadeveon Clowney, DE: Had the draft fallen a different way, and the Bengals didn’t land Myles Murphy in the first round, then I’d say it’s possible. The Bengals did select Murphy, though..... so nah.

Chances: 1 of 10

Chris Wormly, DT: He’s coming off season-ending knee surgery, and he might not be ready for the preseason, but the Bengals do still have depth issues at defensive tackle. Wormly did a good job generating pressure from the interior of Pittsburgh’s defense.

Chances: 3 of 10

Ndamukong Suh, DT: This would be fun. He could be a rotational piece with DJ Reader and B.J. Hill. Maybe he’s got another year left, and I’d bet he’d like to win another Super Bowl. Just sayin’.

Chances: 3 of 10

Cameron Brate, TE: The Bengals signed Irv Smith Jr. this offseason, and most draft analysts expected the Bengals to address the position, possibly in the first round. The Bengals grabbed Murphy when Michael Mayer was available, signaling to everyone they were comfortable with Smith being the guy. However, if they just didn’t like Mayer, and a different tight end they liked didn’t fall to them, Brate could help add depth, and he’d be injury insurance for Smith, who has been injured often.

Chances: 6 of 10

That’s it.

Who Dey!