Normally, the Bengals offseason is quiet and full of disappointment, highlighted by a less-than-stellar draft. But, something unexpected is going on down on the river at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals are putting together what looks to be a phenomenal offseason. Full of good signings, good trades (yes that's right trades) and capped off by a very good draft. Here are the highlights and why there's reason for hope.
Signing of Tank Johnson - Put his previous off-field stuff aside (it was more than two seasons ago now) and this could be an impact signing. Tank is just that - a tank on the defensive line. The Bengals d-line was their weakest area on the 12th-ranked squad from last year. They were quiet, but typically not very impactful. Tank is not an Albert Haynesworth impact player, but he will bring further stoutness and depth to the line
Signing of Roy Williams - This could go down as one of the better signings in the Marvin Lewis era. Some say Williams doesn't play hard enough. He flourished in Dallas when his coach was Mike Zimmer, who will now be his coach again. Williams brings a nasty, hard-hitting style to a team that desperately needed that. He can have an impact on the run game and on third downs, two areas the Bengals were woeful in last year. Williams was a 5-time pro bowler and I think he's going to improve this team. Ask yourself this. Is he better than Dexter Jackson?
Trading for Brian Leonard - This one went down yesterday where the Bengals traded DT Orien Harris to the Rams for tailback Brian Leonard. The Bengals hadn't made a trade this century, literally, so to hear of such a move showed that things might actually be done differently finally by Mike & Marvin. Leonard is a talented runner who offers a complete package of blocking, running and catching. He's coming off an injury, and will not be an elite running back but could be the elusive third down/change of pace back the Bengals have needed. Leonard could also be used, as the Rams have used him, as the fullback or a split back. In short, Leonard upgrades and adds depth to the backfield with a guy that is a high character, hard working guy.
Signing Laveranues Coles - The Bengals decided to let TJ Housmandzadeh walk via free agency. They proceeded to replace him with a similar WR in Coles. Coles will make a nice weapon for Carson Palmer and will compliment Chad Johnson and the batch of the young WRs they have (Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Chris Henry). I don't think the Bengals will miss TJ much, with Coles on the field.
The drafted players - Now, all of the excellent talented the Bengals drafted in April won't mean anything if Mike and his family of misfits can't get the players signed under contracts. There can be no holdouts. Assuming, that since all other signs show a new way of doing things, the Bengals sign all the draft picks promptly (and they've already signed DE Michael Johnson), this could go down as one of the best drafts the Bengals have put together. Rey Maualuga could prove to be a beast of a player. Combining him with Keith Rivers in the middle of the field could have a foundation of solid LBs for years to come. Maualuga will share time with Dhani Jones, who might be able to help teach Rey some things about how to play in the NFL. As mentioned, the Bengals were the 12th ranked defense last year, and adding Maualuga and Michael Johnson to this mix only improves the squad. Throw in first round pick Andre Smith, who will come in and start on day one at left tackles, now that Levi Jones has been released, and the Bengals have improved their biggest area of weakness, the offensive line. In the fourth round, the Bengals took center Johnathan Luigs who will likely be the starting center and will stabilize another area of weakness.
In short, through free agency, trades and the draft, the Bengals have been unBengal-like. They've made quality moves that have added depth, talent and filled glaring holes in a team that was defecient in many areas. I'm not ready to pronounce that they're a playoff team, but I'm sure they've improved the team and will show those improvements through more wins.