Hobson's Choice: Take On The Bengals Big Takes

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes celebrates after breaking up a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
An agreement with Trae Waynes helped the Bengals fly in free agency.

What is your take on our big FA moves on Tuesday? IMO we learned our lesson from Sam Adams, and got back to what works for us with players on the upswing. These are also positions of strength on paper, that looked like weakness on film. Kris Ewing, Chicago, IL

KRIS: Two different deals.

The Bengals' 2006 signing of Sam Adams, the great turn-of-the-century nose tackle, was a final puzzle piece for a Super Bowl contender, a team coming off a division title that was one of the favorites the year before to win the AFC before Carson Palmer got hurt. People forget, but Adams played all 16 games in his lone season with the Bengals, his 13th of a 14-year career, and he helped Cincy go from 20th vs. the run to 15th in the NFL defensive rankings.

But they needed more this trip and the three defensive pickups earlier this week in nose tackle D.J. Reader and cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are all starters in the prime of their careers that transform the defense, not merely put it over the top. Not only starters, but Reader and Waynes are viewed a tier below the Pro Bowl and many think Reader is already there.

And, you're right. The moves address a bunch of problems. In Reader, they finally get a tackle that is so good he needs to get doubled and that's going to open it up for Pro Bowl pass rusher Geno Atkins. And the defense has clearly lacked some speed and pop, but Waynes and Alexander give them fast, feisty, seasoned cover guys willing to be a factor in the run game. (See Jackson, Lamar and Chubb, Nick).

The Reader agreement can't be underestimated. Head coach Zac Taylor has been looking to add to the locker room more guys with "stuff in their necks." Translation: players that are solid, confident, vocal and don't back down from foes or teammates with the resume to back it up. The passionate, committed Reader, just 25 years old, is a computer printout of what they seek.

Plus, Bengals fans know Waynes and Alexander must have some something to them since old friend Mike Zimmer not only drafted them in the first and second rounds, respectively, but kept them around.

And I really like the pickup of Cowboys guard Xavier Su'a-Filo. That's how you get offensive lines better. It wasn't a big deal (three-year, $10 million), but that doesn't mean it wasn't a big deal. They needed to get bigger and better in the interior and they did.

Good start FA, still worried about LB and think we are too optimistic on OL. You see any help coming FA/trade at either? Is Dre gone?, Jacksonville or pats for Dalton (Dalton fan, hopes he gets a starting gig). Thanks Jerry Black, San tan Valley, AZ

JERRY: Like I say, the offensive line did get better and you don't have to upgrade by just dropping $60 million. I think they've addressed the line better than they get credit. A No. 1 pick and a fourth-round pick in the last draft, an extension for a solid center late in the season, a free-agent foray at right guard in the last two years. Plus, for the first time since 2017 they're going to have two straight years with the same line coach and same play-caller. That may end up helping them more than anything.

I hear you on the linebacker. I think it's a spot that hasn't had the priority it should have had recently. But I also don't think I'd trade Reader or Waynes for middle backers like Blake Martinez or Joe Schobert. I won't be surprised if they add a veteran linebacker in free agency, but part of their thinking is that the free agent linebackers were a thin crop, but the college linebackers are better and more numerous. I wonder if they add two backers in the draft. They understand what they need, so I won't panic until September.

Clearly the signings of Waynes and Alexander have tipped the money in the secondary with cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick counting about $11 million and William Jackson III about $10 million. They have to re-evaluate that and I think anything is on the table there. The most likely trade involves quarterback Andy Dalton, but I don't think it's a surprise that it hasn't happened yet. You knew Hall-of-Famers Tom Brady and Philip Rivers and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles would get figured out first.

Hi Geoff, Always enjoy reading your articles. Question here since the free agents not allow to travel for physical and sign contract, can another team up their offer to a free agent for more dollars during this downtime? David Palmer, Lake Waynoka, OH

DAVID: Thank you for reading. I guess anything is possible, but I believe there have been documents signed with at least the agent and that makes it hands off until the player passes the physical and signs the contract himself.

Restructure and resign Andy's contract to around $5-$7 as a back-up? Derrick Ward, Boca Raton, FL

DERRICK: In the coronauniverse anything is possible. I know Andy would like to start, but I also know that the team and Andy have a good relationship and genuine respect for each other. Maybe a delayed start of training camp makes it more likely Andy stays in some capacity? Who knows? In this strange, new world all predictions are off the table.

With the Patriots not keeping Brady and Denver cutting Flacco do you think the Bengals could get a 2nd and 4th for aDlton? Long time reader first time asking a question love you articles Kevin Spears, Shelbiana, KY

KEVIN: Thank for weighing in and hope it's the first of many. On the trade front, I just can't predict it. The Bengals got a first for Palmer a decade ago, but the Chiefs took a third-rounder for Alex Smith seven years later. The Ravens got a fourth-rounder for a former Super Bowl MVP in Joe Flacco, while the 49ers got the 13th overall for a defensive lineman. And don't even ask me about the Brett Favre trade.

And before Ryan Tannehill was Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins had to send a sixth-round pick with him to Tennessee for a seventh-rounder last year and a fourth-rounder this year. Can't predict this stuff – how about the Josh Rosen deal that involved a second-rounder last year and fifth-rounder this year?

Where does Dalton fit in all that? Can't call it. But stay posted to bengals.com to find out.

QB Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton: still very much a Bengal.

Since several doors are closed with teams who may be interested in Andy Dalton, what is the latest discussion as to where Andy might be traded? Do you think a trade may not transpire and Andy will just be released. Thanks! Paul Moore, Lexington, KY

PAUL: You know what they say. When one door closes, another one opens. You'd think the Patriots need a guy, the Jaguars want somebody to go with Gardner Minshew and what if the Chargers can't get their hands on Tua for one final physical before April 23?

Frankly, can anybody make a prediction on anything right now? What if training camp starts Sept. 1? Do you keep Dalton so you don't have to shoehorn the rookie into a surreal situation? I think he gets traded and not released. Of the three options (trade, keep him, released), I would think a release is the longest shot.

As we know putting A.J Green on the tag is a positive for our team short term goals, however do you think it will hurt us in the future with negotiations with A.J? Do you think ge will change his mind about sitting out due to being tagged? Lamar Jeter, Louisville, KY

LAMAR: Green never said he'd sit out the season. He said he would play on the tag. And, I don't think anybody is going to be late to anything because the schedule looks like it is already going to be late and pushed back into a truncated offseason.

I just don't view this as your basic hard-ass franchise tag situation or A.J. as a typical guy. He's not. He's a special guy. It's just so unique. How many teams commit $18 million to a guy that hasn't played a snap in the last season and a half? But that's what you do for a franchise icon.

I know there are agents and positioning and leverage and talking points and all that, but I just don't see that getting in the way if there's a deal to be had.

My question is why not trade pick for multiple picks. We could turn this team around in one year by trading top pick. To many times we have gotten burned by taking a guy off one year. I no Joe burrow is great but it is basically one year. Roy Decker, Hamilton, OH

ROY: I hear you about the one-year thing, but this isn't Akili Smith and the 1998 Oregon Ducks. Burrow's one year was better than anyone's one year. Ever. And he did it in a pro offense. Any draft pick is 50-50, but I'll roll the dice on the guy who completed damn near 80 percent of his passes in the best league in the country.

And there's the rub and I think that's your argument. If draft picks are 50-50, then the answer is to stockpile as many as you can get. Two picks are better than one. Four picks are better than two.

All I know is Washington got eight draft picks in the 1999 Ricky Williams trade and went 38-42 during the next five years when they one had winning record. That's because some of their starting quarterbacks were Jeff George, Patrick Ramsey, Tony Banks and Danny Wuerffel.

It's great to build a team. But you better have that guy, too. And if people have Burrow rated that much better than Tua or Justin Herbert, you can overthink it.

Geoff- why would the Bengals give $42 million for Waynes, who has very similar skills as Dennard, who is getting $13 million? Wouldn't Bengals be better off keeping Dennard and using the extra $29 million on a linebacker? Greg Oakes, Duluth, MN

GREG: They certainly don't agree with your opening statement. Both Bengals scouts and coaches see Waynes as a quality starter who has played consistently at a high level. And this is no shot at Quez, who the Bengals love (great guy), but the team is looking for more reliability across the board. Dennard has only played one full season in his six years in the league. Waynes has taken a majority of the defensive snaps each of the past four years.

Their willingness to tackle is the one thing that may be comparable because both are good. But I think it came down to grades and health. Dennard is pretty much a slot corner who has had trouble staying healthy. Last year they signed Quez for a year at $5 million and this year the Jags signed him for about a $4 million average for three years. I think the Bengals felt like they needed to pay to upgrade that position. And if you're looking for positional value, the three-down corner beats the two-down backer every time.

Is Clowney a reach?? Carl Handley, Columbus, OH

CARL: For a guy who has averaged 5.3 sacks per his six seasons, never hit double-digits and is coming off a three-sack year, yes, Jadeveon Clowney is a reach at $20 million.

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