Cincinnati Bengals: Rebuilding Or Mass Exodus?

Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals inside linebacker Nick Vigil (59) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) tackle Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals inside linebacker Nick Vigil (59) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) tackle Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cincinnati Bengals are experiencing another changing of the guards. Free agency is claiming veteran players. Is it more than just money?

The 2017 NFL season doesn’t start until September 7, featuring one of the Super Bowl LI combatants. Unfortunately, the Bengals are not on that primetime list. But, Cincinnati fans will have fond memories with both teams. Rex Burkhead will be in the house for New England and Mohamed Sanu will make Bengals Nation proud for the Atlanta Falcons. That’s one way to cheer for a championship caliber contender.

The Bengals’ offseason has been interesting, to say the least. After a frustrating year that ended with no postseason appearance, it was time to get serious. This was an anomaly. A blip on the radar screen that would be easily dealt with and the Bengals would be back on track to take the AFC North.

Hold it. Not so fast, buddy. Suddenly, the Bengals are looking like the next door neighbor dealing with a rodent problem. You want to offer your advice but he keeps saying everything is fine. Meanwhile, the problem seems to be getting worse. Better yet, envision that little Dutch kid with his finger in the dike. Then, visualize the Bengals front office pulling him away from the problem. Yeah…yeah, that’s the ticket. 

There seems to be a mass exodus of Bengals players, over the past year. It’s either due to money or…money. Anyone with a faint pulse regarding football understands agents and cash. But, the situation in Cincy seems to be going haywire. Either the players are not as talented as advertised or there’s something wrong in the halls of PBS. 

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals /

Cincinnati Bengals

What’s Really Going On?

Five…Five more Bengals free agents…ah, ah, ah. This is quickly turning into a Sesame Street learning tool. Since the free agent year of 2016, the Bengals have calmly let players walk away. At this point, one has to wonder if it’s merely money, skill set or something more sinister. Players are making the exodus and then letting their feelings be known.

The NFL has a way of breaking players down. One moment you’re on top of the world and considered a world-class athlete at your position. Suddenly, life can come crashing down. You start getting older and fans despise you. But, what happens when you’re just not given a chance? How does it feel to not be wanted anymore? Domata Peko seems to have that feeling after his departure from the Bengals.

"“You gotta go where you feel loved and coach Vance reached out to me and he said he really wants me and you gotta go where you’re wanted,” he explained, per The Cincinnati Enquirer. “The Broncos man, it’s a h*** of an organization to go to. They’re always a contender, every year, year in and year out and it’s a great opportunity for me to come somewhere new and have a little fresh start here and try to get a ring.”"

There it is again. Players are always prompted to be positive. It’s the NFL way. But, Bengals free agents seem…relieved. There’s a genuine sense of being “happy” to get out of Cincinnati. In other words, they’ve dropped the prison Stripes.

When players start sounding like a weight has been lifted from their shoulders, it’s not a good look for the Bengals’ front office or coaching staff.

Frustration And Confusion Within

Recently, the departure of Rex Burkhead made a splash when Carlos Dunlap quietly questioned the move. His Twitter reaction was one that Bengals fans are used to having.

The situation is getting serious. There seems to be a disconnect in Camp Bengals. With the NFL Draft and training camp around the bend, this is no time for the players and management to lose sight of the common goal of getting a ring. But, is that truly the case?

Karlos Dansby returned to the Arizona Cardinals and Trevor Roach decided to hang up his cleats. Both felt that the Bengals had a legitimate chance at Super Bowl LI. Now, the team that had a shot is being dismantled like a wrecked sports car for scrap metal.

Even Giovani Bernard has chimed in with his thoughts.

There seems to be some kind of plan for the future. But, with what players? Andy Dalton is going to need a stellar year from Cedric Ogbuehi. His blind side will thank him in advance. Bringing back Andre Smith is…interesting. Hey, Andy. You might wanna think about taking the O-Line out to Jeff Ruby’s Steak House or The Precinct. That seems to work for most quarterbacks.

Mo’ Money

Maybe Marvin Jones explained the free agency climate best before he left the Nati. After all, it is a business and that’s what Mike Brown does best.

"“I’d like to be back, but at the same time I am a free agent – no hometown discount, definitely not – but I’m a free agent. It wouldn’t be good for me not to test the waters a little bit. So it’s just an exciting process.”"

Next: Who Dey Notes

Whatever the “plan” is, it would be nice to see it come to fruition in 2017. Having to wait another 28 years for a Super Bowl ain’t fun. Let’s hope the exodus isn’t making the window close on that possibility.