Greg Hardy is one of several available players with a checkered past available this off-season. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Although it’s hardly the majority, this off-season, both in free agency and the draft, which feature available players who come with “red flags” due to checkered pasts. Many teams will still consider acquiring these players despite the baggage they come with. Is it possible the Bengals could be one of these teams?
Many NFL pundits have begun to identify players who would resolve the Bengals’ needs heading into 2015. Several of these pundits have identified Greg Hardy as a fit for the Bengals. But the list doesn’t have to stop there. Fansided’s own Josh Sanchez has mocked Marcus Peters to the Bengals in this year’s draft. Dorial Green-Beckham could also be an option in the second round. And free agents such as safety Will Hill and middle linebacker Rolando McClain could also be appealing to the Bengals. With a market of troubled players as possible fits for Cincinnati, should the Bengals be concerned about acquiring these types of players?
Over the past handful of years, the Bengals have done a great job of turning their franchise around from its troubled years. Although they are long removed from these years in the eyes of fans, the reputation hasn’t dissolved entirely. Many still identify the Bengals with these years, and this may be in large part due to the team’s inability to dictate this identification towards something else such as “winning.”
It’s precisely for this reason that some fans feel the team must worry more about success and less about their image. If this means bringing in players with baggage, then so be it. The supporters of this approach want the Bengals to lean on their past success with troubled players rather than worry about compromising their refurbished image. Winning is what will help Cincinnati make the Bengals name synonymous with something other than its laughingstock past.
And it’s true, the Bengals have had past success with these types of players. Adam Jones has largely shed his “Pacman” image since coming to Cincinnati despite some periodic, seemingly innocuous situations. Vontaze Burfict was clearly misunderstood prior to coming to Cincinnati. And running back Jeremy Hill has started his career “on the right foot,” which runs counter to his past issues. Clearly, the Bengals, especially Marvin Lewis, have a certain aptitude for helping these players get over their past transgressions.
But what if these players, such as Hardy, come to Cincinnati and continue their depravity. Would this irreparably damage the Bengals’ image? Probably not as it’s hardly rare that NFL teams give players second and third chances.
What would be important, if in fact a player acted in a deviant fashion once more, is how the Bengals choose to react to it. If the Bengals were smart with their investment, they’d put themselves in a position to move on from the player quickly, which would serve to bolster their reformed image more than damage it.
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of investing in questionable talents. I believe exceptions can and should be made, and each situation should be evaluated individually. But erring on the side of caution will always be prudent.
The Bengals will have some difficult decisions to make this off-season. Some of these decisions may include deciding whether to invest in a troubled player or not. If they do, they should do so with caution. Doing so would means the team should continue to hold itself to a high standard and move on quickly if the player chooses to continue his turpitude. But if the investment proves beneficial and remains morally sound, the Bengals will have struck gold once again while helping a player shed his past image much in the way the organization has its own.
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