After finishing the season last in sacks, the Cincinnati Bengals allowed their sack leader, Carl Lawson, to walk in free agency. The Bengals made sure to bring in another pass-rusher and inked Trey Hendrickson to a massive contract. Hendrickson had 13.5 sacks with the Saints last year but the storyline surrounding him is that he could be a one-season wonder.
As such, allowing Lawson to walk and replacing him with Hendrickson was considered the Bengals’ worst move of the offseason by Randy Gurzi of NFL Spin Zone.
"The problem is, the Bengals didn’t really just settle for the next best thing after Lawson. Instead, they backed up the Brinks truck and gave Hendrickson a better deal than the one Lawson got. They each ended up with $15 million per season but Hendrickson got $60 million over four seasons with Lawson netting $45 million over three.To be fair to the Bengals, they didn’t give Hendrickson as much in guarantees as the Jets gave to Lawson but still, a similar deal to the one that they gave Hendrickson would have surely kept Lawson in Cincy. It wasn’t the worst move ever, but the Bengals’ defense did take a step back this season."
To sum up, Gurzi isn’t necessarily criticizing the move itself but rather the financial aspects surrounding it. As he put it, the Bengals shelled out more money to Hendrickson — a guy who had one good season — than what Lawson received, meaning they could have kept Lawson had they offered him that kind of money.
Did the Bengals make a mistake in letting Carl Lawson walk?
Trey Hendrickson could end up being the same guy he was in New Orleans last year and if he is, no one will look at this move and criticize it. There’s a strong possibility, however, that he doesn’t live up to his huge contract, especially with 13.5 sacks being the mark to beat.
Cincinnati’s pass-rush was nearly non-existent last year and it was foolish of them to let Lawson walk away in free agency. They tried to cover their tracks with the Hendrickson deal but prior to his breakout year in 2020, his best season saw him notch 4.5 sacks. That’s a pretty large jump in a contract year and Hendrickson had a breakout year at the perfect time.
Will this move end up being a good one for the Bengals? Only time will tell but right now, it’s not looked at as a smart move by outsiders.