In the weeks following the Super Bowl loss to the LA Rams, priority number one for the Cincinnati Bengals was crystal clear – build a wall for their franchise QB. Within hours of free agents hitting the open market, they had already signed two brand new surefire starters along the OL. Less than a week later, Burrow and Co. were able to land La’el Collins, who likely slots in at RT as the best offensive linemen on the roster. It was a simple yet successful free agency for Duke Tobin, Zac Taylor and most importantly Joe Burrow.
After that, nobody was sure what the Bengals would do next. Other than giving BJ Hill a 3 year extension, the Bengals mostly filled the rest of the defense by bringing back key role players like Eli Apple, Tre Flowers, Josh Tupou and Michael Thomas.
The Bengals were due for an offseason like this after allocating most of their cap space in the previous two years to the defensive side of the ball. Tons of guys around the league had them linked to multiple tight ends in the draft, like Trey McBride and Greg Dulcich. They passed. Fans were begging for depth at the WR position. They passed. Duke Tobin and the Bengals scouting department decided on one thing – they were going to infuse the defense with speed, versatility and (even more) youth.
Lost in the midst of all of this is the Jessie Bates debacle and I’ll get back to that in a little bit.
They can say this is “how their board fell” as much as they want. And even if that’s true, this was probably always the goal. Hell, the mock draft I put out last week even had them going defense in the first three rounds. The question is why. Why focus so much on adding to a defense that flat out carried this team at times?
To me, there are two answers. One being that the Bengals defense was one of the healthiest units in all of football in 2021, which allowed them to thrive in January. Now, that same unit has scary depth, more speed and even more versatility. It’s the best word to describe first round pick DB Daxton Hill out of Michigan, who Lou Anarumo can’t wait to coach all over the field. Cam Taylor-Britt, who Cincinnati traded up for in the second round, will immediately push Eli Apple for the CB2 spot opposite Chidobe Awuzie. 3rd round pick Zachary Carter steps into a position of no pressure behind DJ Reader, BJ Hill and Josh Tupou.
The other reason? The Bengals are just one season away from the chance at extending Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins. Not to mention Jonah Williams being ready for his first real contract. One thing I can assure you is the Bengals will do everything in their power to keep the young offensive core together. Breaking news to Bengals fans, it won’t be cheap. The NFL is still a business, and paying a Jessie Bates close to 20 million dollars a year doesn’t exactly make sense right now. I feel guilty just for thinking it but face it, the Bengals have built a multiple defense that thrives with a bunch of good players. Stars help, but paying stars even what they deserve doesn’t always help.
The above quote tells me what I just explained. He may have mentioned 3 Technique and not safety, but the point stands. He’s aware Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase are going to be very expensive very fast.
After a draft where the Bengals took three defensive backs, all they did was prepare for the possibility of Bates leaving. None of this means they won’t try to bring their best defensive player back. It just means they’re finally thinking in a business manner rather than just extending someone to please the fanbase.
The NFL is an offensive league full of offenses that can be stopped by defenses with the likes of what the Bengals are building. It seems like the Bengals know this and are staying one step ahead. I mean, we just saw three straight teams trade up in the first round alone to try and find their Ja’Marr Chase. Cincinnati didn’t need to do such a thing because they already have the best trio of WRs in the NFL. Now, they’re gearing up on defense to make more Super Bowl runs.