Key Additions: Danieal Manning ($1.6M per year), Jason Campbell ($1.5M)
Key Re-Signings: Vincent Rey ($2.1M per year), Mike Pollak ($1.6M), Brandon Tate ($1M)
Key Losses: Michael Johnson (Buccaneers), Anthony Collins (Buccaneers), Andrew Hawkins (Browns)
Major Cuts: Kyle Cook ($2.1M cap savings), James Harrison ($1.4M cap savings)
Free Agency Thoughts:
With the Bengals I think what stands out most are the losses. I think the loss that has most up in arms is the defection of Michael Johnson to Tampa. Johnson would sign a deal worth just under $9 million a season which is a pretty large sum of money for someone who is not a great pass rusher. A fairer price would have been in the LaMarr Houston range ($7 million) and I don’t think you can blame the Bengals for not approaching the $9 million level to keep him. That is a contract you regret the minute you sign it.
There was likely no window for them to really sign him. In 2012 he had a career season that was going to drive his price too high. Once the offseason came around there were too many big numbers being rumored for him to listen to any offer that would be reasonable for the Bengals. So he was going to hit free agency under any circumstance.
Anthony Collins was a great luxury to have, but it is not smart cap management to pay for that. Collins I am sure wanted an opportunity for more playing time which he will now get in Tampa Bay. Teams in the NFL consistently lose depth due to the cap and this is a consequence of that aspect of the NFL.
Andrew Hawkins had more value to the Browns than the Bengals, but the Bengals may have been able to protect themselves had they used a higher tender. Many players end up reworking their tender offers to include guaranteed money at a reduced salary and they could have done that if they knew others were interested.
When it came to actual free agency the Bengals barely registered. The best signing may be journeyman QB Jason Campbell who could at least provide professional play if Andy Dalton gets hurt. Could they have looked for a higher upside backup? I guess it is possible but if Mike Vick and Josh McCown are looking for opportunity than this was not the place for either. Should they have looked at Mark Sanchez even though Campbell was already under contract? I would have. He has better physical tools than Campbell and has played in tough weather environments. The Bengals would provide him with a far better set of skill players than he had in New York where he was acceptable in the playoffs, but fell apart the last two years during the regular season.
Danieal Manning will provide some depth at the position but his best days are long behind him. The Bengals have taken chances on older players than others have given up on with some mixed results and they will hope he is a positive case.
Of the re-signings Vincent Rey was a RFA that the team signed for an extra year on his extension. He’s a good backup that is versatile and the cost is certainly reasonable considering the tender for a year was $1.4 million. The others are also depth signings with little upside.
Overall Grade: D
I can understand building through the draft and saving cap space for AJ Green and Andy Dalton, but this is a team with the third most cap space in 2014 and near the bottom of the salary cap spending charts in 2015 as well, and that already includes a $10 million option for Green. I get that the big knock on the team is that they will not go anywhere unless the QB play improves, but after three straight rapid playoff exits you should be working to do anything you can to make the most out of what you currently have. All things considered this team made sense for a Justin Tuck or Lamarr Woodley as a one year trial on defense as a lower cost alternative to one of the big names that were available. There were safeties available that they could have bid on that would have improved the team. There were reasonably priced centers on the market that may have helped. I just cannot see the purpose of sitting on the money that they sat on this year with the stage that the team is at. This is the ideal location to successfully add to the mix via free agency and they did not touch it at all.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.