With free agency well underway, the Bengals have gone through several changes. Some good, some bad, and some are “what were they thinking” ugly. Though it’s only a few weeks into free agency, Cincinnati’s decisions must be evaluated. To determine a grade, a closer look will be taken at the players they have signed as well as key personnel they have let slip away.
The Bengals have re-signed three key members from their defense. This was a smart move considering that the Bengals overall defense was ranked second in scoring in 2015. The Bengals defense needs to remain strong in 2016 if they plan to make a run at a Super Bowl title.
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The Cincinnati secondary got a boost by retaining safety George Iloka and cornerback Adam Jones. Iloka has the potential to be one of the top safeties in the NFL with his strength and athleticism. He is a player that would be difficult to replace, therefore his free agent grade is an A.
Adam Jones brings a depth of knowledge and experience to the cornerback position. This is critical as Cincinnati has quite a few young corners who need to be mentored. Though Jones had some shameful behavior on the field last season, he is still a valuable veteran player. With this in mind, Jones warrants a solid B for his free agent grade.
The final re-signing that will have an impact is Vincent Rey. Rey has been one of the tackling leaders for the Bengals the past few seasons and has been a major contributor overall. With Vontaze Burfict out of action to start the season, Rey’s knowledge and experience will be invaluable for the Bengals. This information makes his free agent grade a B.
The Bengals lost two key members of their receiving corps this offseason. Marvin Jones is now a Detroit Lion and Mohamed Sanu is an Atlanta Falcon. Losing these two receivers may have quite an impact on the Cincinnati offense, given that Jones and Sanu accounted for 98 receptions and over 1100 yards receiving. Jones was a great number two receiver and deep threat, but wanted too much money. This makes the Bengals decision to let him walk to be graded as a B.
Perhaps the most important impact of losing Sanu is that two of the Bengals top three receivers from last season are now wearing a new uniform.
Letting Sanu leave was a poor decision by the Bengals. Sanu was affordable, knowledgeable about system, and versatile. He added many dimensions to the Bengals offense that are no longer accounted for. Perhaps the most important impact of losing Sanu is that two of the Bengals top three receivers from last season are now wearing a new uniform. This leaves a massive void and makes life easier for opposing defenses. Losing Sanu has to be evaluated as a C.
Cincinnati has thus far made two signing that make fans and analysts alike scratch their heads. The first is right tackle Eric Winston who has started just four games in two seasons. He has been a proverbial weak link when he is on the game. Though he is the president of the NFLPA, re-signing him was a terrible idea and therefore he receives an F for his free agent grade.
The other curious signing was wide receiver and return specialist, Brandon Tate. Tate was ranked 23 in the NFL in return yards and has not had a touchdown off of kick or punt since 2011. In addition, Tate had only two receptions in 2015. Though one of those was a long touchdown, Tate provides little to no value for the Bengals and his signing is graded as a D.
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The Bengals have made quite a few moves thus far in free agency. Some were obvious while others made no sense. Given all the information their overall free agent grade to this point is a C. With this being said, the Bengals can improve their grade by signing players that will improve their chances of winning in 2016. It will be critical that Cincinnati avoids more signings like Winston and Tate and finds players that add value. At this point, the Bengals have astringent defense but a gaping hole in the offense that must be addressed.