It was said by Cincinnati Bengals GM Duke Tobin that they would be more aggressive in this year’s free agency. At the end of the first week of Bengals free agency, it is apparent that he wasn’t bluffing. Despite the fact that states and leagues are shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL GMs have had to adapt. This would lead many to think that the Bengals would be back to their cheap old ways. Thankfully, this is not the case!
Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency Recap
A.J. Green, Wide Receiver (Franchise Tag)
The first Bengals free agency move that was made was an obvious, albeit correct move. A.J. Green has been the man in Cincinnati since the Bengals used their fourth-overall pick in 2011 on him. Since then, Green (when healthy) can be a top-five receiver. The caveat of “when healthy” must be added because he’s played in nine games the last two years. Green has voiced his displeasure with the franchise tag, so when negotiating a new deal, he said to sign him to a long-term deal or just let him walk. Green wants to be in Cincinnati. Let’s see if 2020 serves to be a re-emergence due to potentially better quarterback play and the fact that defenses have to respect Tyler Boyd.
D.J. Reader, Defensive Line (4 years/$53 Million)
During the legal tampering period, Bengals fans were getting impatient. At the time, Cincinnati was not credibly linked to any other big free agent targets like Nick Kwiatkowsky or Cory Littleton. This changed when the news broke that the Bengals free agency officially started with the signing of one of the largest free agent signings in franchise history.
D.J. Reader was a fifth-round selection out of Clemson by the Houston Texans. In four seasons, Reader improved yearly. In 2019, Reader earned an 86.7 grade from Pro Football Focus as well as a 2nd team All-Pro. As an interior defensive lineman, Reader’s statistics are not the most glamorous. However, he is an elite run-stopper and a strong pass rusher. Pairing him with Geno Atkins will prove to be a winning combination and a welcome sight.
Trae Waynes, Corner (3 years/$42 Million)
Cornerback was considered a priority when the Bengals free agency opened. Enter former Minnesota Vikings corner, Trae Waynes. Waynes was a solid number two corner opposite of Xavier Rhodes and will end up in the same role opposite William Jackson in Cincinnati. With an uncertain future at other corner positions, the Bengals had to act.
Waynes is a very fast, very physical/handsy outside corner. Minnesota tried to use him as a slot corner during his rookie year. It did not go well. So, they played to his strengths and allowed him to work outside where his style of play is better suited. Even if he were to get beat, he has the closing speed to make a play. His ball skills are lacking, unfortunately, so Cincinnati may have overpaid here. Either way, it’s refreshing to see that they are at least trying. Even then, PFF had Waynes as their second-best corner on the market.
Mackensie Alexander, Corner (1 year/$4 Million)
Possibly the biggest steal of this Bengals free agency would have to be the signing of Mackensie Alexander. Alexander, another former Viking, is a very solid slot corner. Why get worked up over a number three corner who will only play in the slot? The guy doesn’t miss. In 2019, the Bengals were the worst rushing defense in the entire league by giving up 2,382 yards on the ground. By signing Alexander and Reader, the Bengals have already worked to remedy that hole.
According to PFF, Alexander was only one of five corners in 2019 to play over 500 snaps and not commit a single penalty. In addition, he is aggressive in run defense and did not miss a single tackle. If 2020 goes well, don’t be surprised if the Bengals ink Alexander to a longer deal to solidify their secondary.
Xavier Su’a-Filo, Guard (3 years/$10 Million)
The oldest of the four outside free agent signings comes from the Dallas Cowboys, Xavier Su’a-Filo. There really is not much to be said about Su’a-Filo outside of the fact that he was probably brought in to be a back-up/competition with Michael Jordan at guard. The former second-round pick has shown flashed of brilliance. Unfortunately for him, he also has some tape where he looks no better than Bobby Hart or Billy Price. If there is some upside, Su’a-Filo appeared in 11 games (started four) in 2019 which resulted in 307 snaps played. In those 307 snaps, he gave up only one sack and committed one penalty. Even if he becomes the starter because Cincinnati does not address the issue during the draft, Su’a-Filo would prove to be a solid spot starter.
Where Are The Former Bengals?
Other notable former Bengals have elected free agency and some have found new homes. Here is a list of some of the more notable Bengals free agency losses.
Cordy Glenn, Tackle: Unsigned
Tyler Eifert, Tight End: Unsigned
B.W. Webb, Corner: Cut by Bengals, currently unsigned
Nick Vigil, Linebacker: Unsigned
More Work To Be Done
As of today, the official contract details for Reader and Alexander have not been released as they pertain to the salary cap. According to OverTheCap.com, the Bengals (before those two) are $19.6 million under the cap. However, if you take into consideration an estimate of those two, that number shrinks to almost $2.35 million. Andy Dalton and Dre Kirkpatrick have uncertain futures with the club, so we may see one or both of them released or traded for draft capital. Together, they will make about $28.7 million, so moves will be made. Needless to say, it is certainly a breath of fresh air to Cincinnati fans to see an active Bengals free agency. It really is a #NewDey.
Embed from Getty Images