If there’s one phrase guaranteed to set Bengals fans off, it is the team’s annual declaration, usually just before the start of free agency in March, that they won’t be big players because they are committed to “building through the draft.”
Well, if that’s truly Cincinnati’s strategy, then they obviously haven’t been very successful at it. There are any number of reasons for this, one of which is that Mike Brown & company don’t seem to have any idea how to wheel and deal in order to get value for players they don’t intend to keep and turn them into additional picks.
That’s why I was grinding my teeth this morning at the news that the New England Patriots have traded Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour, the team’s first-round pick in 2001, to the Oakland Raiders for the Raiders’ first-round selection in 2011.
The deal gives New England an eye-popping total of three 1st and four 2nd round picks in the next two drafts.
Cincinnati Bengals history is littered with players whom the team has let walk for nothing. Back in 2006, I was one of many fans arguing that, since it appeared the team wasn’t prepared to open the vault for DE Justin Smith, they should trade him. A second-rounder surely could have been had from someone — and quite possibly more.
Instead, the Bengals chose to franchise Smith after his contract ran out in 2007. He generated two whole sacks that year, and left for a big payday in San Francisco.
OL Stacey Andrews, who signed with the Eagles for big bucks earlier this offseason, is just the most recent example. It was plain to see that he didn’t want to be in Cincinnati, but desired to sign with Philly in order to play with his brother Shaun Andrews. Instead of looking to deal him to the Eagles (or Jets, with whom Stacey visited as a restricted free agent) the Bengals again employed the franchise tag. Andrews got a top tackle money and proceeded to lead the offensive line in sacks allowed.
This scenario has played out again and again in Cincinnati. It’s not the only reason the team has been so bad for so long, but it’s a rare day (think: Corey Dillon) when they get significant value for players who clearly aren’t in their future plans — or for players who don’t have the Bengals in their future plans, like T.J. Houshmandzadeh. In short, the Bengals’ front office can neither fish nor cut bait. Meanwhile, the Patriots have all the draft ammunition they need to keep their team a contender for years to come. Building through the draft indeed.