I know a lot of folks hate Mike Florio and profootballtalk.com with the burning passion of a thousand suns, but I’ve always been a fan. So it is with some regret that I must note that Florio swung at an easy target — the Cincinnati Bengals — today, and missed badly.
BENGALS TALK UP THEIR COMPENSATORY PICKS
Posted by Mike Florio on March 24, 2009, 10:54 a.m. EDT
The Cincinnati Bengals have issued a press release boasting about their compensatory draft picks.
Titled “Bengals’ Four Compensatory Picks Hold Potential for High Value,” the Bengals point out that they’ve recently used compensatory selections to secure safety Chinedum Ndukwe with a seventh-round pick in 2007 and receiver Andre Caldwell as a third-round pick in 2008.
But this is a door that the Bengals shouldn’t open, in our view.
For starters, the only reason that they have compensatory picks is because they choose not to pay the draft picks and veterans who have performed well for them, and likewise to spend limited amounts on other peoples’ free agents. Indeed, this year’s crop of four compensatory picks (a third-rounder, a sixth-rounder, and two in the seventh) comes from the fact that the Bengals lost via free agency in 2008 the following players: Landon Johnson, Bryan Robinson, Justin Smith, Alex Stepanovich, and Madieu Williams.
The Bengals replaced that five-man exodus by signing only Antwan Odom.
So, in this case, cheapness equals more draft picks.
Also, the Bengals shouldn’t boast about their periodic hits via the draft, because they have had more than their fair share of misses over the years, too.
I’ll come back to the issue of putting out a press release about their comp picks in a moment, but the idea that “the only reason that they have compensatory picks is because they choose not to pay the draft picks and veterans who have performed well for them, and likewise to spend limited amounts on other peoples’ free agents,” is simply not the case for the Bengals this time around. Let’s take a look at that list of players:
Madieu Williams: the Bengals didn’t get a comp pick for Williams because they signed Odom to equivalent money. Obviously, that doesn’t support the idea that the Bengals are cheap in free agency.
Landon Johnson: the Bengals actually matched the 3-year, $9 million Johnson was offered by Carolina, but wouldn’t guarantee him a starting spot, so he chose to take the Panthers’ money. Ironically, he failed to win a starting gig in Carolina, spent the year on special teams, and recently took a pay cut to stay. Meanwhile, the Bengals spent that $9 million on TE Ben Utecht. Since Utecht was a restricted free agent, and only true unrestricted free agents count under the comp pick fomula, this is actually a case where Cincinnati spent the money and still got a 6th round comp pick.
Alex Stepanovich: the Bengals signed Step after the Cardinals thought him so important that they declined to tender him as a restricted free agent. He signed a one-year deal, couldn’t even beat out Eric Ghiaciuc for the starting center job, and left for Atlanta where he appeared in a whole four games last season. In this case, the Bengals managed to get a free seventh-round pick for signing a guy who hasn’t done bubkis on three teams.
Bryan Robinson: The now-13-year veteran spent three seasons (2005-07) with Cincinnati, the last in a reserve role, after which the team decided to go with youth and drafted DTs Pat Sims and Jason Shirley in the ’08 draft. I’m not sure what NFL it is that Florio follows, but swapping out aging players for younger ones happens on every team every year.
Justin Smith: This is the only player who might fall under Florio’s description, but even then Smith is a hard sell as an example of the Bengals’ cheapness, given that in 2007 he made nearly $9 million as the team’s franchise player (and in return gave the team two (2) sacks). Mike, if you can find a single Bengals fan who thinks the team should have topped San Fran’s offer to Justin, I’d love to meet them.
Now, all that said, I agree that the Bengals are unwise to tout their comp pick windfall — not because it shows how cheap they are in free agency (it doesn’t, see above) but because it only points out how poorly they draft. The last time the Bengals had 11 picks was 2004, and that draft was an unmitigated disaster. And here is the issue of cheapness: not that the Bengals won’t spend on free agents, but that they won’t spend on an NFL-caliber scouting department.
In short, the Bengals are unwise to tout their comp pick windfall because all they’ll do is remind fans just how likely it is that they’ll royally screw the pooch next month.