Bengals not satisfied with offseason moves in quest to bring Cincinnati a winner
The Bengals have had an active offseason. They committed nearly $150 million to eight players in free agency and completely revamped one of the NFL's worst defenses.
They also added seven players in the draft, including 2019 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. The organization believes the work is just beginning in their quest to become a winner.
"What we're after is what's still to come. Which is having the guys that come in and fulfill their potential that we see in them," Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin told Bengals.com. "The work is a long way from being done. But we feel like we've got guys that will work at it and have a good chance of realizing their potential and maximizing their abilities."
The Bengals were shocked when Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins fell to the second round. They were just as stunned when Logan Wilson was available in round three. Head coach Zac Taylor called their draft haul the "best case scenario" after day two.
The Bengals had a first-round grade on Higgins. After they took Higgins, they were hoping Wilson would still be there in round three. They had given him a high second-round grade.
"I can honestly say we don't feel we reached in any round," Director of College Scouting Mike Potts told Bengals.com. "Regardless of what teams want to say after the draft, I don't think most teams can say that ever year. I don't think it's always true teams pick the best available player even though that's what they say. Regardless, you're always looking to fill certain positions on your roster."
The Bengals tripled down on linebacker by selecting Akeem Davis-Gaither in round four and Markus Bailey in the seventh-round.
Their draft will be successful if Burrow becomes the franchise passer that everyone expects, but Cincinnati also added multiple players that could turn into future Pro Bowlers.
The Bengals' biggest weakness appears to be the offensive line. They've struggled upfront in each of the past four seasons, but the team thinks they have the personnel to improve.
"We think our line is coming on. Getting Jonah (Williams) back is a big benefit," Tobin said. "Losing him last year was a big hit. That will make a difference for sure."
The Bengals drafted Hakeem Adeniji from Kansas in the sixth-round. He made 48 starts, 40 of which came at left tackle. The organization believes he was another value pick.
"By no means did we feel he was sixth-round caliber," Potts said. "We were rushing to turn in the card at the podium at the top of the sixth so to speak. We felt the value of the player and the position was too much to pass up. I don't know if you took Hakeem Adeniji at the top of the fourth instead of the sixth if anybody would have been overly disappointed with that.
"I'm sure some people look at our draft and say, 'You should have addressed the O-line earlier.' But you have to know where the draft is strong and weak. The tackles flew off the board early in the first. We liked the next wave of guys and Hakeem would be included in that. We thought there was some depth and we could be patient. I think people from outside may be saying, 'Oh, they felt obligated and threw a dart at the draft board late for the offensive line."
Houston tackle Josh Jones was a player that most analysts had penciled in to the Bengals in round two. They took Higgins instead. It seemed like a forgone conclusion when Jones dropped to round three, but the Bengals went with Wilson.
Cincinnati wasn't going to reach to fill a need in this draft. They didn't believe the wide receiver class was as deep as everyone thought. A top player on their board fell and they were happy to take him in round two. They liked the linebacker depth, but they would've taken Wilson much earlier than pick No. 65.
Should the Bengals take an offensive lineman to take one or take a linebacker they actually believe in?
If they had known that Davis-Gaither would've been available in round four and Bailey would fall to them in the seventh-round, maybe their decision would've been different. One thing is clear: they believe in Wilson.
"The reason Logan Wilson is going to be such a good pick is because he's an all-around player. You can't say he's just a run and hit guy, he's just a cover guy, he's just an in the-box banger. No. He checks off so many boxes in his game," Potts said. "He's big, over 6-2, 241 pounds. He's athletic, he can run. He's got good length. He can get off a block, he's instinctive, he's got a ton of on ball production. He had no medical concerns. No character concerns. You look and say what's the negative? Because he played at Wyoming? We don't agree with that."
The Bengals feel really good about what they've done this offseason. All three levels of their defense should be much improved. They added Burrow, who they love, gave him plenty of weapons and added to their offensive line, both in the draft and in free agency.
Despite an eventful offseason full of moves, the Bengals know the work is just beginning.
“I do feel like we are a better team, but a better team on paper doesn’t mean jack right now,” Taylor said last month. “We have to go to work, and make sure that just because we feel like we added some good players in free agency and the draft, we can’t feel like our work is done.
“We just finished a 2-14 season. To think that things are gonna be easy for us, we’d be sadly mistaken. We all understand that, and we are willing to put in the work.”