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Tuesday Trenches: Week 1 free agency recap and a look ahead

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By: Jason Garrison

Phil Didion/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

A wild first week of the new league year! Let’s recap.

And we’re back!

The offseason is over (kinda), and the Cincinnati Bengals are wheeling and dealing! Now that legal tampering is over and free agency has officially begun, the Bengals have signed some new faces, but they’ve also lost a few as well.

So here’s a recap:

*Disclaimer: As of this writing, this is up-to-date.

Who we signed (not in any particular order)

  • Sheldon Rankins, DT (Houston): Rankins is a very threatening 3-tech interior pass rusher. He has feasted against the Bengals in the past (six sacks against the Bengals over his career). He’s not the run-stopper DJ Reader is, but he’s also not a nose tackle. What he will do is boost the Bengals pass rush by giving the defensive line a serious inside push.
  • Geno Stone, S (Baltimore): Stone finished last season with the Ravens by intercepting seven passes, including one against the Bengals. The Bengals had issues at safety last season, having lost Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. Stone isn’t Bates, but he does fit a similar “center field” mold the Bengals didn’t have last season. Taking a player away from a division rival isn’t bad, either.
  • Vonn Bell, S (Carolina): Speak of the devil! The Bengals found themselves a great deal here. They’re bringing Bell back on a one-year deal that’s being paid for (mostly) by the Panthers, who released him. He comes back home and helps lead a young safety room to a better tomorrow!
  • Zack Moss, RB (Indianapolis): The Bengals brought in Moss as a free agent and traded Joe Mixon (more on that in a few). Considering the free agent market was full of guys like Saquon Barkley and Derrick Henry, Moss doesn’t seem like a big signing, but it fits what the Bengals need nicely. They don’t need a home-run hitter from the running back spot. They need someone who can pass block (Moss can), and they need someone who is comfortable running out of shotgun (Moss is), and they need someone who isn’t too expensive (Moss isn’t).
  • Mike Gesicki, TE (New England): The Bengals are back on the one-year, patch-and-play wagon when it comes to the tight end position. Irv Smith Jr. didn’t work out like his predecessors, but there’s some hope Gesicki can. He’s more slot receiver than tight end, though, which is something the Bengals will need in Tyler Boyd’s absence. Hopefully, this tight-end signing works fine, Gesicki gets paid, and the Bengals get some wins.

Who we’ve retained (in no particular order, and with just a small note next to each one):

  • Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB: I was surprised on this one. Davis-Gaither knows he’s gotta be behind Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson on the depth chart. I figured he’d go for more playing time elsewhere, but I’m happy he’s back.
  • Tanner Hudson, TE: Yay! Hudson was the most productive receiving tight end on the roster last season and is probably TE3 on this roster. He’s not a bad TE3 either.
  • Drew Sample, TE: Another tight end has signed a three-year deal! Sample isn’t the ideal receiving tight end, but he can sometimes bring the fans to their feet. He’s also a capable and willing blocker. He’s basically the anti-Gesicki.
  • Trenton Irwin, WR: Yay, again! Irwin could see himself as WR3 behind Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins to start the year.

Who we’ve lost (again, in no particular order):

  • Jonah Williams, OT, Cardinals: No surprise here. Williams wasn’t happy he was forced from left tackle to right, but he took it like a pro. I wish the best for him, whether he’s a right or left tackle unless he’s blocking the Bengals.
  • Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Titans: Awuzie lost his role to DJ Turner last season, and the defensive back is looking to prove he still has what it takes to be a shutdown corner in the league. He was great when healthy with the Bengals, and again, I wish him luck.
  • Irv Smith has Jr., TE, Chiefs: It didn’t work out. For Smith’s sake, I hope he bounces back. Since he’s with the Chiefs I hope it’s in 2025.
  • DJ Reader, DT, Lions: This one hurts. Reader, when healthy was a key cog to Lou Anarumo’s formidable machine. He allowed the linebackers behind him to play freely and helped us get to the Super Bowl and two consecutive AFC Championship games. He will be missed, and I doubt he can be replaced.

Those still outstanding (again, in no particular order)

  • Tyler Boyd, WR: Boyd will surely sign elsewhere, but wide receivers are expensive. I’d love to have him back, but considering Higgins is on the tag and has requested a trade, I don’t see it happening. I just hope he doesn’t sign with the Steelers or Chiefs.
  • Nick Scott, S: He was released by the Bengals.
  • Josh Tupou, DT: I could see the Bengals grabbing Tupou to help fill the void Reader leaves, at least as a depth option.
  • Max Scharping, OL: He’ll land somewhere as a depth guy.
  • A.J. McCarron, QB: He came back due to weird circumstances last season, but he doesn’t really belong in the league.
  • Joe Bachie, LB: Special teams guy I’d like to see the Bengals bring back.
  • Mitchell Wilcox, TE: He was a part of the tight end Hydra the Bengals formed last year. Don’t know if he’ll be back or not, but I kinda doubt it unless it’s as a camp body.
  • Markus Bailey, LB: See Bachie.

So what’s my take? I know you didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. The Bengals are weakest, at this point, at right tackle. They really don’t have a starting right tackle on the roster, and despite the strong draft class, I’d prefer the Bengals not force their own hand when it comes to how they use their first-round pick. I’d rather the Bengals sign someone who can start at the position if the season starts today, which is why the team is hosting Trent Brown for a visit.

The next issue is nose tackle. I’m not saying Rankins can’t be an every-down player, but he’s not getting younger, and I would rather not have to rely on him being on the field all the time if they can help it. The team showed interest in Teair Tart, but it appears that won’t work out.

After that, I’d say it’s depth at cornerback the team should look at. Nobody to steal the spotlight from anybody else, just depth guys. I’m confident in the abilities of the corners on the roster right now, but they need more depth, and building in free agency to not depend on the draft is the way to do it.

They have the money, why not spend it?

What say you? Which signing do you like the most? The least? Which free agent loss hits the second hardest after Reader?

Sound off!

Relevant Song Lyrics:

They got the money, he, you know they got away
They headed down south and they’re still running today singin’
Go on, take the money and run
Go on, take the money and run

Originally posted on Cincy Jungle – All Posts