Bengals – A fanciful look at a team that probably isn’t as bad as you think.
Result: Missed Playoffs
2019 Regular season record: 2-14
2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 30th 17.4 PPG
2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 25th 26.2 PPG
2020 Draft First Round Pick: 1
Coach: Zac Taylor
The Offseason Scenario:
I’ll start by saying this. The Bengals lost more games in 2019 than they probably should have. From a few statistical standpoints, they were better than we think. They had a significantly better point differential than both Washington and Miami, and eight of their fourteen losses were very winnable one score games. I’m not saying that the Bengals were good, just that maybe they’re a little better than we’re all thinking. A play here, a play there. A few more first downs and this team easily could have been picking tenth or eleventh overall. Which raises a few interesting questions. Like this one. What if Joe Burrow to Cincinnati isn’t a done deal? But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Free Agent Frenzy:
The Bengals aren’t exactly rich in cap space, with around $7 million left, the seventh-least in the league, but they’ve already made some very necessary improvements.
Cincinnati gave up the third-most passing plays of twenty yards or more last season, and it’s easy to see how that could be important when a team loses eight games by a single score. So, the Bengals decided to essentially raid Minnesota’s secondary for talent, bringing in both Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes. Waynes is a major upgrade to the roster, while Alexander is a slot corner who’ll save them about $9 million after the departure of Darqueze Dennard in free agency. They also added powerful but somewhat injury prone OG Xavier Su’a-Filo from Dallas to shore up their pass protection for whoever is under center. Cincinnati also they put the franchise tag on elite receiver A.J. Green, who was out all last season, meaning that they anticipate him being an important part of a rebuilding year. The money they have left under the cap isn’t a ton and Cincinnati isn’t known for splashy signings, but I think they’re closer to being decent than a lot of folks think. Andy Dalton hasn’t looked great since the 2015 season, when he had career highs in completion percentage, TD/INT ration, and passer rating. They will more than likely be better with Joe Burrow under center, but even the number one pick is never a sure thing.
Seriously Premature Draft Hunches:
It’s almost a bygone conclusion that the Bengals will take Joe Burrow with the number one pick. But that’s not fun anymore. So, let’s play a game of “what if…”.
What if the Dolphins have soured even a little bit on Tua? The past week saw rumors and leaks swirl about failed physicals and teams anticipating that he might drop like a stone on draft night because they view him as too injury-prone, or to use a more damning term that’s been flying around: “brittle”? What if Miami looks at its king’s ransom of first round draft picks and wants to motivate Cincinnati to give up Joe Burrow? Could they do it? My guess is that it’s possible. Miami picks at 5, 18 and 26. A package of the number 5 pick and one of the other two might be enough to temp the Bengals to trade back. Especially since in all likelihood, Burrow would still be the only QB off the board at number 5. Washington, New York and Detroit aren’t really in the market for a signal caller, so Cincinnati would still be able to get Justin Herbert, Jordan Love or, yes, even Tua. After all, this is the Bengals we’re talking about and Andy Dalton is still on a team-friendly deal through the 2020 season.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images