A week into free agency, the Cincinnati Bengals appear to be on the verge of fulfilling their unstated goals. Based on their activities over the last seven days and the players they lined up for visits, those goals were to retain their own top free agents (Chris Crocker, Cedric Benson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh), replace those they couldn’t keep (no Housh? Get Laveranues Coles) and sign a new backup quarterback and starting fullback. The last two items aren’t checked off yet, but the rumor mill has the signing of QB J.T. O’Sullivan coming today, and the tea leaves point toward an offer for restricted free agent fullback Naufahu Tahi in the near future.
Modest goals? Certainly, but it’s a modest free agent period — and one that became even more so after about half the teams in the league deployed the franchise tag prior to the opening bell. And really, I’m a bit surprised at the kind of money the Bengals have slung around. I like Crocker, but $10 million for a DB on the cusp of 30? In years past, the Bengals would have waved away such demands and moved on down the food chain. And if you’d told me prior to last week that the Bengals would spend $7 million a year on a 31-year-old wideout not named Houshmandzadeh, I would have laughed in your face.
By my accounting, Cincinnati has handed out roughly $45 million in new deals to people who weren’t on the opening day roster in 2008. Last time around, they spent nearly $39 million on Antwan Odom and Ben Utecht. So they’ve spent north of $80 million in free agency over the last two years combined. Maybe that’s not Snyderbrenner coin, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. On the official site, Geoff Hobson credits Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn for getting this year’s deals done. Blackburn, husband of owner Mike Brown’s daughter Katie, has long been dismissed by a cynical fan base as just another example of the nepotism that characterizes the organization.
Well, perhaps we were wrong. Maybe there is someone in the front office with a clue. And so I say, well done, Mr. Blackburn. Now, keep it up.
Movin on, I see kirk has delivered on his promised praising of/kvetching about the Coles signing. A lot of good thoughts there with which I concur. One thing I’d add, though: the problem of Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell being stuck on the bench only happens if Chad Johnson and Chris Henry are still on the roster in September. There’s plenty of speculation that the Coles signing also greases the skids for Ocho’s departure. I don’t think that necessarily follows, but Coles’ presence does make it easier to move Johnson, assuming they have any intention of doing so — and that someone is interested in taking him. And we all know the deal with Henry. Everyone is pulling for him to stay out of trouble, but one more wrong move and he could end up banned from the game.
Speaking of trading Chad, John Thornton has some rather strong opinions on the subject:
So you want to trade Chad Johnson? Send him to Dallas huh? OK….explain that one to me. I don’t get it. I get emails saying that he should be gone. I hear talk show hosts asking what kind of compensation the Bengals could get for Mr. Ocho Cinco. But is that really what you want? You want to trade your best WR because he had a bad year? Didn’t every Bengal have a bad year last year? Players and management. We were 4-11-1. 0-8 at one point, and 1-11-1 with three games to go. I know you can’t get rid of the whole organization, but since you cant, you want to trade Ocho Cinco. Let’s talk about it.
Read the rest here. I find that I can’t disagree.
Over at NBC Sports, Gregg Rosenthal says that the Bengals spent too much in free agency this year. Yeah, read that again: the Bengals spent too much in free agency. Spent. Too. Much.
Seriously, did you ever believe there would come a day when someone would accuse the Bengals of profligacy?
Don’t spend money and they’re cheap. Do spend money and they’re wastrels. All I can do is shake my head and chuckle.
Who Dey NYC wants to know why the Bengals haven’t pursued help on the offensive line. I would have liked to see more o-line signings, too, but there just wasn’t a lot out there to go after. At tackle, I didn’t see any option that beat “just hang on to Levi Jones.” Even playing hurt last season he was better than a healthy Stacy Andrews. At center, Jason Brown would have been sweet, but I console myself by noting that Ozzie Newsome didn’t want him at $7 million per, either.
Clearly, offensive line help is going to come through the draft, and fortunately for the Bengals, this year’s class features a rich crop of tackles and centers.