The Cincinnati Bengals went from a playoff doormat to a Super Bowl contender in the span of a single year. How did they do it?
A little bit of luck, a good draft year, and a productive offseason. Following a four-win season in 2020, Cincy went after key starting-caliber players to patch up the holes in their roster. Some of their notable signings included pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson, corner Chidobe Awuzie, and offensive tackle Riley Reiff — not a bad haul at all.
Fast forward to this offseason, and teams across the league are making big-money moves to give themselves a shot at championship glory. Denver traded for Russell Wilson. Indy traded for Matt Ryan. Cleveland traded for Deshaun Watson. Jacksonville did…Jacksonville things.
With many months left before the start of the 2022 season, some of the NFL’s top talents have already found new homes: Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Khalil Mack, Juju Smith-Schuster, Von Miller…and the list goes on. No doubt this is the craziest offseason in recent history, and the Bengals’ 2021 Super Bowl run had a little something to do with it.
Cincinnati Bengals show what teams can achieve with a productive offseason
That being said, the Bengals’ 2021 offseason could hardly be called “ground-breaking.” None of Cincy’s additions were as high-profile as, say, Miami breaking the bank for Tyreek Hill (or Davante Adams’ trade which completely reset the market a week prior), or Cleveland setting a dangerous precedent with Deshaun Watson’s contract.
Cincy’s biggest signing last year was arguably Trey Hendrickson, who had enjoyed a breakout year with the Saints but wasn’t at the time considered one of the most elite pass-rushers in the league. Someone like former Bears’ Khalil Mack absolutely is.
Though the Bengals may have shown teams how to put together a solid offseason, their acquisitions were far from splashy. Cincinnati’s front office made reasonable, well-calculated moves to address positions of need, and they did that extremely well.
On the other hand, a team like the Los Angeles Rams may have made a bigger impact in influencing how teams spend money with their “F–k them picks” philosophy. Last year, the Rams went all in on pricey talents like Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller, to name a few, and their efforts paid off. Los Angeles went on to win a ring, and not even a full offseason later, several members of that Super Bowl-winning squad have since left for greener pastures (Miller, Woods, probably OBJ).
So yes, Cincinnati set the mark, but the Rams raised it, and now teams in both conferences are scrambling like beheaded chickens and emptying their pockets to build mega-million talent-packed rosters.