Free Agency Day 1 Dust Settles


Now that the first 24 hours of free agency are behind us and the rush of signings has slowed, there’s space for some perspective. For Bengals fans, perhaps the most surprising event of free agency so far has been the lack of suitors for WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Over at yahoo sports, Charles Robinson labels T.J. one of the losers of day 1.

"He still will get a good contract, but the market realities of a 31-year-old wideout are setting in. Seattle is next on the itinerary. If he can’t get something done there, he’s going to be scrounging for a decent deal, a la Plaxico Burress in 2005."

As it turns out, Housh’s visit with the Seahawks didn’t produce a deal. Tampa Bay WR Michael Clayton is also in the free agent mix in Seattle. Houshmandzadeh is now off to Minnesota.

In fact, no one appears to be beating down the door for T.J. And the same is true in the case of this weekend’s visitor to Cincinnati, former Giant RB Derrick Ward. Like T.J., Ward was ranked as the top non-franchised player at his position available in free agency, yet also like T.J. he’s drawn only minimal interest. Why? In the end, I agree it’s simply that both Ward and Houshmandzadeh are complementary players who are asking for No. 1 money. And so far, that’s been a non-starter. If they don’t lower their sights, both may stew on the market for a while.

Among other things, this means props must be given to the Bengals front office, and even the debbil himself, Mike Brown. When the Bengals franchised kicker Shayne Graham, they got roasted by many fans for “letting T.J. walk for nothing.” I took a couple shots myself, though my complaint was that, if they had no plans to keep him beyond 2008, they should have dealt him last fall. A more popular rant was that the team ought to have tagged T.J. and then traded him, the theory being they could have gotten at least a second-round pick.

Well, it doesn’t look that way now, does it? And even the idea of trading him last year loses some of its 20/20 hindsight luster, since the Bengals do indeed seem to have a chance to retain Houshmandzadeh. The bottom line is, whether T.J. ultimately stays or goes, they called the market for him correctly.

They also got it right on DB Chris Crocker, who re-signed with the Bengals after they allowed him to test the free agent waters. RB Cedric Benson, my candidate for the franchise tag, has drawn absolutely no interest, as far as I can tell. Bengals 1, me 0.

There are the usual whines out there that the Bengals aren’t doing enough in free agency. Really, Chick, you’re all that upset at the loss of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stacy Andrews? I’m calling BS on that one. But I’m sure it’s a no-win situation. Had the Bengals inked Andrews to a $7 million per year deal, the column would have been about how the incompetent front office throws money at injured, average players while (insert team name here) goes and signs (insert big name player here) which is why the Bengals will never win.

And no, it’s not just me who thinks this. Over to you, C. Trent:

"I’m absolutely floored by some of the Bengals fans I hear bemoaning the fact Stacy Andrews signed for a reported multi-year deal worth $7 million per. They’re all saying it’s proof the Bengals aren’t going to spend money, but they’re the same people who would complain if the Bengals signed him for that same contract. Seriously, if it pains you too much to be a Bengals fan to use your brain, why do it?"

As for Fitz, I would rather have kept him for reasons I laid out last December, but even then I noted there were other, arguably better, options. But yeah, let’s bust on the Bengals for not keeping a backup QB who went 4-7-1 as a starter (insert rolling eyes smiley here).

And the Crocker signing? Shoot, even WDR likes that one.

No, the Bengals haven’t made any big splashes, and I wish they’d gone after now-Rams C Jason Brown, but I don’t have a lot to complain about in free agency ’09 so far. Knowing the Bengals, that will probably change, but for now, we’re good.