If I were the Bengals GM, instead of sitting back and watching things unfold, and letting the market determine things, I become aggressive, knowing that I’ve got a young offense with glaring holes, and a young, hungry defense on the cusp of greatness. Plus, with the AFC North becoming weaker with the demise of the Steelers and the Super Bowl champs losing a lot already, now is the time. It’s a make or break year for the Bengals, that can determine long-term success, or one-year wonder status for the franchise. It’s that important for this team. With that said, if I’m GM, here’s what I do (assuming I can convince Mike Brown to blow the dust off his wallet and allow it to happen):
Make a run at Ed Reed or Dashon Goldson. Sign one of them, with Reed to a short-term contract and Goldson to a long-term deal. This would give the Bengals the best defensive backfield in football then, and open up the blitz-schemes for Mike Zimmer’s defense.
On the offensive side, the Bengals must find a WR free agent to help expand the offense, but who fits Jay Gruden’s West Coast offense, and take pressure off AJ Green. Anquan Boldin would’ve been the exact match, but the Bengals sat on their hands, and should’ve offered up a 5th rounder to trump the Niners deal. Without Boldin, the two names that fit are Julian Edelman or Danario Alexander. Either of these WRs would make nice #2 receivers and extra targets for a young, developing offense. If they swing and miss on these two, could Jerome Simpson be a fall back option? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
The last player to grab is perhaps the most important. And that’s James Harrison. Adding a proven leader, from a division rival, with Super Bowl rings and a veteran toughness, would help the young defense, at a position of weakness. Harrison could help Burfict, Johnson, and the rest of the defense become the hard-working, tough players they need to become. Plus, stealing a key player from the hated Steelers helps further. And with that, I’d let Rey Maualuga walk. He’s too inconsistent and not athletic enough to play in this scheme. But, if they do resign him, make sure Harrison is there as an example of how to be a professional linebacker.
SHORE UP THE STRIPES
The rest of free agency should be used to lock up key Bengals who are going to hit the market like Andre Smith (pivotal), Adam Jones, and Terrence Newman. Whatever non-rookie money that remains goes to long-term negotiated deals with Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap (in that order).
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