March Madness fever seemingly hit the Bengals front office last weekend. They followed up one of the busiest signing days in franchise history with a quiet Saturday and Sunday.
Tuesday picked back up with a pair of one-year signings. Left guard Quinton Spain and cornerback Eli Apple both get a chance to jumpstart their careers. Safety Ricardo Allen wasn't far behind with another one-year deal a day later.
Here are grades for Cincinnati's latest additions in free agency.
Quinton Spain, LG, Grade: B
The Bengals signed Spain midway through last season to beef up depth on the offensive line. The veteran bet on himself this offseason, signing a one-year, $1.1 million deal. His cap hit is only $987,500. The Bengals got a bargain if the former Bills lineman can return to his 2019 form. Spain, 29, went undrafted out of West Virginia in 2015 and went on to play four years with the Titans before a brief stint in Buffalo.
Positional Impact: Spain has a legitimate chance to start at a guard spot on Frank Pollack's offensive line. His main competition right now is Xavier Su'a-Filo and Michael Jordan. As a starter, Spain has the best track record of the trio. He's shown durability playing in 13 or more games every season since 2013. Spain's best season came in 2019 when he played 1,007 snaps and earned 39 total points. That total points mark was fourth among all offensive linemen, according to Sports Info Solutions.
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The West Virginia-product was the odd man out following the Bills offensive line dart throws last offseason, throwing his 2020 season into flux. Spain has the talent and the track record to regain his old form under Pollack's tutelage.
Stat To Know: Spain has not committed a false start since Week 13 of the 2018 season in a 26-22 Titans victory over the Jets.
Eli Apple, CB, Grade: C-
The former top-ten pick is trying to get his career back on track. Cincinnati is Apple's fourth team going into his sixth season after stints with the Giants, Saints, and Panthers. Carolina was his shortest and most recent stint. He only played in two games before being cut after injuring his hamstring.
Positional Impact: Desperation can bring out the best in some players. Apple faces that pressure in 2021. He gets a chance to silence critics in the same area where he built his football prowess at Ohio State. Apple figures to battle with Darius Phillips for the fourth cornerback spot.
Given all the league's changes, 2020 was a lost season, but Apple has never quite hit the heights his draft slot should warrant. His best showing came in 2018 when he allowed a 48.3% completion rate, three touchdowns, and a 74.4 passer rating on 118 targets. Those numbers increased to a 63.2% completion rate and 100.9 passer rating in 2019. At 25 years old, Apple is another low-risk, medium reward signing for the Bengals.
Stat To Know: Apple didn't allow a touchdown during a five game stretch with the Giants in 2018. Current Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was his defensive backs coach.
Ricardo Allen, S, Grade: B-
The 29-year old was a respected player in the Falcons locker room. Allen was the team's 2019 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and has been a captain four times in six seasons. The veteran brings consistent availability, with four seasons of 15-plus games played.
Positional Impact: This move rounds out what has become the strongest position group on the Bengals' roster. The secondary had depth issues all of 2020, and now they are stocked with options.
Allen plays safety but can line up at multiple spots in an Anarumo defense that requires versatile defensive backs. Allen has had a knack for getting hands on the ball. Since 2018, he has five interceptions and 16 passes defended. The 2019 campaign was arguably Allen's most complete season when he saved 30 total points across 16 games. That tally ranked 17th among all safeties according to Sports Info Solutions.
Allen takes over as the third safety behind Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell.
Stat To Know: Allen has played over 600 defensive snaps in five of his six NFL seasons and is a member of the Falcons 2010-19 All-Decade team.
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