Five Biggest Free Agency Moves: Cincinnati Bengals
With free agency now into its fourth week as April’s Draft draws closer, it’s time to start reviewing which teams filled some needs and who got weaker. Here are the five biggest free agency moves for each team so far.
After a huge talent drain last off-season, the Bengals struggled to a 6–9–1 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They lost even more talent this year, meaning the upcoming draft is vital to Cincinnati’s chances of returning to the playoffs. Here are Cincinnati’s five biggest free agency moves:
1 — Losing Andrew Whitworth
Despite being 35, long-time left tackle Andrew Whitworth was still playing at a Pro Bowl level last season. However, the Bengals clearly didn’t want to pay an ageing offensive lineman a hefty contract, so Whitworth left to join the Rams. Young tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher will compete to replace him. However, neither is up to Whitworth’s level yet, and the Bengals went out and brought back former tackle Andre Smith, who signed with the Vikings last off-season. Not a move that inspires confidence, as Smith struggled to contribute despite injuries along Minnesota’s line. Smith returns on a one year, $4.5 million deal.
2 — Losing Kevin Zeitler
Jeremy Hill looked like the Bengals’ back of the future after an impressive rookie season in 2014. But Hill lost a fumble in last years playoff loss to Pittsburgh, dooming the Bengals to their fifth consecutive one-and-done playoff appearance. Cincinnati’s running game struggled last season, despite Kevin Zeitler still being one of the NFL’s premier guards. Without him in the line-up after signing with divisional rivals Cleveland, the Bengals’ backfield could struggle again this season.
3 — Signing Kevin Minter
Linebacker Kevin Minter started every game for the Cardinals over the past two seasons; with four sacks, a safety, four pass breakups and a forced fumble over those two years. Minter adds consistency to a Bengals linebacker corps that sorely needed it. Minter signed on a one year, $4 million contract with Cincinnati, who then cut veteran linebacker Rey Maualaga, solidifying Minter as the starter.
4 — Re-signing Dre Kirkpatrick
Dre Kirkpatrick impressed in 14 starts last season, with 10 pass breakups and three interceptions in addition to 16 pass breakups in 2015. The former first round pick can be Cincinnati’s number one corner of the future and signed a five year, $52.5 million contract to stay with the Bengals. However, Kirkpatrick must improve his consistency and temperament if he wants to become a top five corner.
5 — Re-signing Brandon LaFell
After losing Marvin Jones and Mohammad Sanu to the Lions and Falcons respectively last off-season, the Bengals signed Brandon LaFell to a one year deal. Statistically, LaFell had one of the best seasons of his career with 64 catches for 862 yards and six touchdowns. Cincinnati rewarded him with a two year, $10 million contract. But don’t be surprised if the Bengals draft another receiver to pair with A.J. Green, with LaFell serving as a complimentary third target for quarterback Andy Dalton.