Adam Jones has bolted back in the picture for three more years.
With the Wild Card heartache still palpable on all levels of Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals doubled down on the first day of free agency and rolled out about 10 percent of their 2016 salary cap number (figure around $14 million) to retain Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones and starting safety George Iloka.
And even though they lost starting wide receiver Marvin Jones, they were prepared to give him one of their biggest March deals ever until word broke in the media Wednesday morning that Jones opted for Detroit.
"I think it does. I've got some unfinished business; we've got some unfinished business," said Adam Jones Wednesday night when asked if his three-year deal (reported as $20 million by spotrac.com) shows the Bengals still think their window of opportunity is still open.
"That's the only reason I'm talking to you right now. I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think we could still win over the next three years. Out of all the teams I talked to, we've got the best chance of any of them to win it all."
One of them, apparently, was the Vikings of head coach Mike Zimmer. When Zimmer was the Bengals defensive coordinator, he, along with head coach Marvin Lewis, revived Jones' troubled career in 2010 after he had missed two of the previous three seasons.
Jones wouldn't be specific about his options, but it had been widely reported that there were a half dozen teams interested in his services, including AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cleveland, as well as Miami. But Jones did say Zimmer came aggressively courting.
"I love Zim," Jones said. "He really treated me well through this, but this is the place where I know."
How badly do the Bengals and their fans want to win now?
As they worked with Jones' agent Peter Schaffer via e-mail during Wednesday's lunch hour, one Bengals exec looked out at the ticket window plaza and saw a fan get out of his car, look up at the office windows, and raise a sign that read, "Sign Adam Jones."
Bengals president Mike Brown, who oversaw this deal with the help of his family, could have been the guy raising the sign because he had everyone in on negotiations. Vice president of player personnel Paul Brown chaired the deal with the husband-wife negotiating team of executive vice president Katie Blackburn and vice president Troy Blackburn pitching in.
"You wouldn't believe the amount of DMs I've gotten. People really respect what we're doing here," said Jones of his direct message twitter feed. "The support has been great. I'm very content with the deal. This is home.
"I'd like to thank the Browns, Troy and Katie. I'm really content with the deal."
So they did what the sign said and signed Adam Jones with what is believed to be their longest and biggest deal ever given a player set to turn 33 on Sept. 30.
With Jones' cap number coming in at about $8 million, the Bengals front-loaded a big deal that now gives them a pair of starting corners making in the $17 million range for 2016 with Dre Kirkpatrick making $8 million.
It not only reflects how the much the Bengals respect what he did this season with his play at cornerback that was good enough to put him in his first Pro Bowl and his clutch return game that marked the fourth quarter comebacks against Seattle and Pittsburgh, but it shows how comfortable Jones is here with Lewis, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. Even "new," secondary coach Kevin Coyle is a comfortable face. Coyle was here for Jones' first two seasons.
It also shows the commitment the Bengals have made to defense ever since Zimmer's unit in 2009 ranked fourth and spearheaded a division sweep and title. In 2013 it was the NFL's highest paid defense and since then they've re-upped Jones, right end Michael Johnson, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict in total deals of about $60 million.
"Coach Lewis is like a father figure, a brother," Jones said. "Paulie G. is one of the best D-coordinators out there; Darrin is the best special teams coach I've ever had. Kevin is a great coach and we've got a lot of good coaches on defense. I'm eager to get back."
It won't be long. He's been hanging around the facility all offseason and was there on Wednesday, just a few hours before the deal got some steam around 3:30 and finished up around dinner.
"I'll be down there tomorrow working out," Jones said.
The theme of "Unfinished Business,' is already starting to make the rounds. Iloka, whose emergence as a locker room leader is now solidified with a five-year, $30 million deal, talked about it when he confirmed his deal as free agency opened Wednesday afternoon.
"That was one of the tough things about losing," Iloka said of the 18-16 loss to the Steelers. "I really wanted it for the city and I wanted to be here when we did something we hadn't done for a long time. But I didn't know if I was coming back. Now I'm back. It's like I never left . . . So I want to help us get over that hump."