The Cincinnati Bengal’s new, exciting free agency approach leaves the possibility for a more aggressive draft strategy.
Under the new approach, most likely inspired by Zac Taylor, the front office has spent over $120 million in free agency so far, dishing out the most money in the history of the franchise’s existence. An entirely new secondary, one of the best defensive tackles in football, and help at some of their weakest positions were all acquired while racking up the historical bill.
Now the focus shifts to late April, where the Bengals are currently slated to have 7 new prospects join their ranks. It’s widely speculated that the team won’t pull off any crazy moves with the first overall pick, as they’re expected to stay put and select the previously mentioned Heisman trophy winning quarterback. After that, however, things could get more interesting.
During the Marvin Lewis era, the Bengals were notorious for employing a conservative draft approach, preferring to trade back and acquire more picks rather than leaping forward. Much like free agency last season, they stuck to the status quo in Taylor’s first year at the helm in this regard as well. But as fans saw, Taylor, with a full offseason to work with and coaching staff already in place, was able to get the franchise to do a complete 180 in the first phase of player acquisition. Could he do it again come April?
One thing is for sure, Bengals ownership has given Taylor pretty much everything he’s wanted since his arrival to the Queen City. Extended office space, additional coaching positions, an offensive line coach with a less than ideal past, a historical spending spree, and more. If at any point the 36-year-old play-caller is looking up and down the board and he sees a player he wants to target, don’t be surprised if the Bengals give him the opportunity to do so.
That may have been the case on multiple occasions in last year’s draft. Drew Sample wasn’t slated to go until the fourth round, but the Bengals pulled the trigger in the second. Perhaps that was at Taylor’s direction.
Then, in a transaction that has Taylor’s fingerprints all over it, they traded up in the fourth round to acquire Ryan Finley, despite Andy Dalton still having the confidence of the organization to be the franchise quarterback at that point.
There’s enough evidence to suggest that if Zac Taylor decides he wants to utilize an aggressive draft strategy, the Bengals will allow him to do so. The question comes down to whether or not he believes in an all-out approach for the draft. Despite the track record of selecting injured first-round picks and misses at the offensive line position, the team has generally drafted pretty well and Taylor may not want to disrupt that.
In addition, the depth of the wide receiver class favors trading back and acquiring more picks. Even if an aggressive draft approach isn’t in the cards this year, however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an option on the table in the future.
Perhaps Taylor’s seismic shifting of the Bengal’s culture and philosophy is completed. Then again, there could be an aftershock on the way. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if the front office uses the ammunition they have to pull off some aggressive moves.