How The Bengals Can Go ‘All In’ For 2017

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Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) reacts to a touchdown by running back Jeremy Hill (not pictured) against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) reacts to a touchdown by running back Jeremy Hill (not pictured) against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tired of the Bengals never-ending “drafting for the future” model? What if the Bengals start 2017 by trading the future for the draft?

This year’s draft is one of the deepest in recent memory on the defensive side of the ball. The Bengals would be well served to trade up and gather as many first/ second round picks as possible.

Consider the Cleveland Cavaliers (two different sports, I know). But the Cavs knew what they had to do for their fanbase–win a championship. They went out and shopped everything in order to build Lebron’s team to his liking. The early results are promising. Sure, they don’t have hardly any future assets in terms of draft picks, but they have a ring and multiple Finals appearances.

If you’re a Bengals fan, wouldn’t it be worth giving up a few future draft picks to secure a Super Bowl win? If nothing else, at least the one, singular, ever-elusive playoff win?

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No NFL team likes to give up draft picks. Unlike the NBA, where young draft picks more often than not are busts, the NFL early round selections usually find it easier to turn their potential into production right away.

So, what would it look like to go all in for the 2017 season?

Free Agency

First and foremost, retaining key free agents. Most notably, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, with Dre Kirkpatrick getting the next most important spot. Although it will take most of the cap space to do so, they won’t have to sign any external free agents to fill their roles. The team can then use rookies drafted later for depth.

Say it takes $34m of the projected $43m cap space this offseason to retain those three. Then what? That only leaves the team with $9 million in cap space, and they’ll like to have about $12-15 million to work with rookies and in season emergency additions.

Next, I would release Adam Jones. Unless you’re sold he can return to his top 10 corner status, he’s not worth keeping around at 35-years-old for $7.6 million. With $1.3 in dead cap, cutting Jones would save $6.3 million in cap space.

After letting Jones go, cut Rey Maualuga. This move would save the team $3.6 million. Another defensive player to wave goodbye to is Pat Sims, saving $1 million.

These three moves set the projected cap space at $20 million. That money could go towards re-signing key depth pieces such as Karlos Dansby and Domata Peko, as well as the rookies.

Trades

The next thing would be trading assets away that aren’t vital to a Super Bowl run, namely AJ McCarron. A strong backup piece, if he can fetch the team a second rounder, that pick is going to help the team more in a playoff run than the backup QB.

It does get rid of the safety net. But, Dalton has only missed 3 games in his career. At this point, we’re either winning with Dalton or there is a full rebuild in our near future. In order to get that playoff win, I’m proposing the following trades:

  1. McCarron and 3rd round pick (73 overall) to the Chicago Bears for their 2017 2nd round pick (35 Overall)
  2. 2017 6th round pick (195), 2018 1st round pick,  2018 3rd round pick,  2019 1st round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for their 2017 1st round pick (14/15 overall).
  3. 2017 4th round pick (116), 2018 3rd round pick, 2018 5th round pick to the Washington Redskins for their 2017 2nd round pick (49 Overall)

Draft

Historically, higher draft picks tend to produce same season results (At least for every team but the Bengals). So with that thinking, let’s go get ourselves some impact players in this draft.

If the proposed trades above work, the Bengals’ 2017 draft could hold the following picks.

  • 1st round: 9, 14/15 via PHI
  • 2nd round: 35 via CHI, 41 original slot, 49 via WAS
  • 3rd round: none sent to CHI
  • 4th round: 138 comp pick
  • 5th round: 154 original slot, 178 comp pick
  • 6th round: 219 comp pick
  • 7th round: 232 original slot, 253 comp pick

Imagine the first round netting us Corey Davis at 9 and Derek Barnett at 15 if he slips down due to other risers (Taco Charlton) and combine testing. How about Reuben Foster at 9 to solidify our linebacking corps, and Corey Davis at 15 if he slips due to concerns about the level of talent he faced and/or tests poorly?

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The firepower available with having five of the top 50 picks is incredible to think about. The team could–and should–be a very different product than what we saw in 2016.

Final Thoughts

The roster could be loaded in this scenario. A first round impact defender and a first round offensive playmaker go a long way towards reaching our goal. Not to mention, three 2nd round picks that ideally compete for playing time from day one.

It’s time to get that playoff win, Bengals. It’s time to go all in.

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