The NFL reached a milestone in free agency on day one where $1 Billion dollars exchanged hands between teams and players. The Brink truck arrived in Tampa who is the clear free agency “spend it if you got it” winner thus far with $125.5 million in contracts for six players. Denver however spent the most for less but as a whole is the winner on perceived quality. John Elway opened up his wallet and dished out $110 million in contracts with $60 million in guarantees to DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward. The truth is that most years the winner of free agency only gets you one win and teams ultimately find out that they may even drop back a game or two in the standings. The Cincinnati Bengals however, take the Walmart approach to free agency. They wait for the feeding frenzy to ebb and slowly bring in players at bargain prices. This approach has worked very well for them in recent years as they prefer to pay their own players instead of bringing other big names knowing that if they bought big now, they would have to sell the A.J. Greens later.
So far the quiet Bengals have only signed LB Dontay Moch for a second stint in Cincinnati after being waived by the Cardinals. They have kept wide receiver Brandon Tate and lost tackle Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Jonson. However with an estimated $28 million in salary cap space, the Bengals will spend it all by the start of the season as they have done the last three seasons.
The scouting department in Cincinnati knows that free agency is only a way to artificially improve a roster. To them money only presents an appearance of the team’s owner seemingly caring more about the team by bringing in big names. But if you think about it the teams that spend big are the ones with fundamental issues that forces them to panic. Look at Denver for instance, they were a defense away from winning the Super Bowl and with an aging Manning the small window forced him to spend and spend big on the defensive side of the ball. Last year the Miami Dolphins were desperate for a season that did not involve scurrying around in the basement of the standings but all they had to show for it was one extra win.
In the end, the Bengals keep finding key players through the draft by getting key pieces like Wallace Gilberry, Adam Jones and Mike Pollak and by risking undrafted signings like Vincent Rey, Andrew Hawkins, Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur. The fact is that the Bengals are the only team in the NFL that truly believes in building through the draft and actually practice what they preach. This philosophy is hard to argue with as the past three years they have consistently improved and moved into the post season for a consecutive third year. So Bengals fans that are clamoring for a splash and a big name signings, don’t, because at the end of the season you will have the post season to look into, something that the very few big spenders in free agency get to relish in.