TDBH: Lewis bids to change culture with free-agent double as Thornton, Hardy agree to terms

Posted Mar 6, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - March 7, 2003

The word comes late tonight and the team doesn’t confirm it as if it is too much to process. But the agents do as the impact of new Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is immediately felt in the first hours of free agency with verbal agreements from valued and respected locker-room pros in defensive tackle John Thornton and middle linebacker Kevin Hardy. The Bengals have never dropped money like this so quickly and expensively, but they are all in to help Lewis change the culture to the tune of $10 million in money this year for the pair as Hardy signs a  four-year deal worth about $15 million and Thornton pulls down $22.5 million for six. "We got criticized for sending players to Philadelphia five years ago and Green Bay 10 years ago and we think Marvin is on the right path in Cincinnati," says Hardy agent Eric Metz. "Kevin has been in the league seven years and been with Jacksonville and Dallas, and he was very impressed with the staff there in Marvin and the rest of the defensive coaches."


Left unsaid is the Takeo Spikes Era is over. Hardy’s deal means the Bengals won’t match the Bills’ offer and the thinking is they’ll put him at middle linebacker even though he’s never played it with Brian Simmons moving to his more natural spot on the outside. But the 6-4, 250-pound Hardy, who turns 30 the week training camp opens, is a versatile sort who leads the Jaguars in tackles from both outside spots in earning a Pro Bowl berth. And in his one year in Dallas last year, the Cowboys line him up at the end of the line sometimes on passing downs. Thornton, 26, is seen as an up-and-coming player who has been on the front line of Tennessee's recent play-off runs.


Lewis and Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn prove to be a productive tag team with Lewis doing the recruiting and Blackburn crunching the numbers. “The reason I came there is because I've got a lot of respect for Marvin Lewis,” Hardy says. “I've always admired how he's coached and after meeting the other coaches and seeing what he has going on here, I think it's going in the right direction and I want to be a part of it."  Thornton, now an agent whose steady locker-room influence is still felt on the D-line through the likes of  Michael Johnson through Domata Peko, never gets off Lewis’ radar. Even after he leaves Cincinnati to visit New England and Arizona. Even as Thornton sits in Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s office he sees Lewis buzzing in. "I talked to him three, four times a day," Thornton says. "He'd say, 'How are we doing? Where are we at?' He wanted me to play here and you could tell …  There's talent here, it just has to be mentally right and I think Marvin is the kind of guy that can do that. Look at the coaches who joined him and the winning programs they left. Look at Marvin. If he waited a few weeks, he could have had the job in San Francisco or Detroit. But he chose Cincinnati. If a guy like him can do that, so can I."



Recent Articles

Recent Videos