Remember all those improvements the Cincinnati Bengals made during the offseason, addressing glaring needs? Of course you don’t; it never happened.
It was obvious to everyone who follows the team that the Bengals needed a serious upgrade at safety. Reggie Nelson was fine at one of the spots (although he hasn’t played well for the most part this season) but there was no way the Bengals could go into the season with Taylor Mays as the other starting safety.
But that’s exactly what they did.
When Jim Harbaugh arrived as the San Francisco 49ers head coach in 2011, one of his first orders of business was shipping Mays out for pennies on the dollar. A 2010 second-round pick, the 49ers traded Mays to the Bengals for a seventh rounder. Think about that for a second. Harbaugh knew that Mays would never be a good player in the NFL and was willing to take a seventh round pick for a guy who was a second-rounder the previous year.
Also, it was obvious the Bengals needed to add depth at linebacker. They did nothing to address the situation via free agency or in the draft and were lucky to get Vontaze Burfict as an undrafted free agent.
But people might ask “Did the Bengals have enough money to go out and address needs at safety and linebacker?” The answer might surprise you. Actually, it shouldn’t if you know anything about Mike Brown.
The Bengals are a robust $20 million under the salary cap this year. There should be a penalty for such cheapness, but that’s business as usual for Brown.
When your marquee free agent signing is BenJarvus Green-Ellis-McNeverbreaksatackle you know the owner of your team just doesn’t care enough about winning. Of course Brown wants to win, but he doesn’t want it badly enough. He also doesn’t know how to win. Or else, he would hire a general manager who knows how to build a championship-contending team.
The bottom line? The Bengals are 3-5 this season and we’re already in “Looking Ahead To The Draft” mode. But don’t expect much action in free agency from the Bengals in 2013. That’s about as safe a bet as one could possibly make. And it’s a shame because the framework of a good, young team is in place. There is an absolute star at wide receiver in A.J. Green. There is at least a serviceable quarterback who will only get better in future seasons in Andy Dalton. I know Dalton has struggled at times this year, but be patient with him. He’s a winner and he’ll be successful if given time in Cincinnati.
The defense has young stalwarts like defensive tackle Geno Atkins, defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, and Burfict. Also, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was the first of the Bengals’ two first-round picks this past spring and is said to have a very high ceiling. The other first-rounder, offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, has started all eight games and appears to have been an excellent pick at a position of need.
However, even with that strong nucleus, having an owner that believes it’s OK to be $20 million under the cap gives Bengals fans little hope for the future.