The Cincinnati Bengals earned a grade of B by ESPN on their free agency signings and trades in 2018.
As the frenzy of free agency is mostly over and most of the trades have been made, the Cincinnati Bengals are focusing on the NFL draft coming up at the end of this month. Head coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals front office were uncharacteristically aggressive in the free agency period in 2018. Fans were surprised to see moves made by the team that were impactful players and sure upgrades. Overall, ESPN gave the Bengals a grade of B for their free agency period moves.
The biggest moves by the Bengals in this period were the trade for Buffalo Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn, signing Bills inside linebacker Preston Brown to a one-year deal, and retaining tight end Tyler Eifert. Eifert was the biggest move for the Bengals when looking at full potential but he has to stay healthy for a full season which he has yet to achieve in his five years with Cincinnati. They also made some signings in other areas like defensive tackle Chris Baker to a one-year deal. The grade also takes into consideration of players the team lost in free agency but that depends on your opinion of losses.
One of the losses that ESPN noted was Bengals center, Russell Bodine. Losing a starting center on an offensive line with numerous holes in need of upgrading might seem like a big loss but Bodine should not be hard to upgrade from. Cincinnati will likely spend an early draft pick on a new center and other pieces along the offensive line but will that be enough?
One of the reasons that the Bengals only earned a B grade was because of the fact that there are still big holes on the offensive line and it’s possible they won’t be able to upgrade all of those holes in free agency. There are also other holes on the team like a linebacker with Vontaze Burfict facing another four-game suspension and Preston Brown only being a temporary fix unless they decide to extend him after the 2018 season. Other spots that could be upgraded is defensive line and secondary for the defense.
The Bengals decided to move on from cornerback Adam Jones and linebacker Kevin Minter this offseason. They have already upgraded the linebacker hole with Brown who led the NFL in tackles just last season and has been one of the best tacklers in the NFL since being drafted. There has yet to be a move to upgrade the cornerback position as cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has yet to live up to his contract and cornerback Darqueze Dennard is being retained on his fifth-year option.
Cincinnati’s secondary still has third-year cornerback William Jackson III who had a breakout season last year after being injured for his whole rookie campaign. Cornerback is likely a position we see addressed in the draft as well. Regardless of the grade, the Bengals have been more aggressive this offseason at finding upgrades before the draft and it should bring some optimism for fans that have been given very little in recent years.