The past few years the Bengals have sat back when free agency has arrived, and for the past few years the Bengals have fizzled out of the playoffs in the first round. Although there may not be a direct link, it seems like they are missing a critical piece that could come from a larger first or second day free agent signing.The Bengals have sat back and watched the free agent frenzy and in the past who can blame them, with teams over paying for talent that may or may not pan out. There is only one problem with sitting back now, they need that one player who can push them past the first round. Someone with playoff experience, who can make a direct impact through play and leadership in January.
The Bengals have signed late free agents like James Harrison and Josh Johnson, but have focused more in house re-signings than opting for the market. The Bengals this year have lost Michael Johnson, who is a large defensive end presence, and may lose Anthony Collins, who was a huge fill in for depth purposes all year.
The Bengals may need to look outside the organization to fill those roles. They may not strike on the first day but they need to go after a larger role player to replace Michael Johnson. I have been a big proponent of bringing in the likes of a Justin Tuck or Jared Allen, but the Bengals seem content heading into the 4pm opening as an onlooker than participate in the typical fireworks.
The short answer to me is that unless there is another surprise just laying around, like Vontaze Burfict, it will be hard for this team to prove early they can make it past the Wild Card round, as is. The success this year may hinge on their new coordinators, and their ability to change and adjust to new schemes and plays. I expect a good team this year, but we might see some growing pains as the beginning of the season unfolds.