INDIANAPOLIS - Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin challenged what he called "a manufactured narrative," that has emerged about his team during the past month when he met the media Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.
Asked his thoughts about questionable assertions that include the Bengals haven't tried to win a Super Bowl, Tobin retorted with numbers that put the Bengals in the upper half of league spending since 2011 despite being near the bottom in revenue.
"The narrative isn't correct. It's not built on fact. It was built on opinion, I guess," Tobin said. "The fact is, we're at the end of the CBA, we're trying to get a new CBA, but over the course of this past CBA we're a top half of the league spending team on players. Not at the bottom.
"We're 13th in wins, we're top 10 in playoff appearances. Those aren't at the bottom. None of that is what we want to accomplish, but none of that says we're the worst team in the league. If we're not trying to win, let me tell you there are a lot of teams having more success doing it than us."
Don't look for the Bengals to deal the No. 1 pick: All options are on the table, of course, (they sat down Monday night for a formal meeting with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and talk to Burrow Wednesday), but a trade seems almost as unlikely as a non-Burrow pick.
"I would say it's doubtful. You never say never, but I would say it's doubtful," said Tobin, when asked what the odds are of trading the pick.
" There are a lot of great players available to us there. You kind of know exactly what you're going to get when you start the planning process. So I would say it's doubtful, but I never say never. We'll see where it leads us. We've got to go through the process to determine that."
Tobin indicated the Bengals are going to be players in free agency: a tool that hasn't been at the forefront of their plans in the last decade. He wasn't specific, but said it was going to be "an active offseason," that officially starts March 18, the first day they can sign unrestricted free agents and trade players.
He also said they're talking to their own players about extensions with the big deals believed to be reserved for wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Joe Mixon.
"At the same time we've got a lot of needs on our football team and we're going to look at free agency and we'll see what dominos fall," Tobin said. "It's going to be a blend. We've got guys we're talking to on our own team about extensions, so we'll see what we can get done. You don't know what's going to get done until it actually gets done. Once one domino falls then you've got to adjust at that point. We've always been a team that wants to keep and reward guys who have come in and done it the right way and produced for us. Being a player on the Cincinnati Bengals you know if you come in and do it the right way, produce, become a good player we're going to look to extend you and reward you for that."
Look for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's name to surface here this week: Tobin wouldn't rule out Dalton returning to the club this season, but the conventional wisdom is they'll draft Burrow April 23 and trade Dalton before the May OTAs.
With every GM in the league here this week, Tobin says it's a natural place for trade talks to begin.
"Andy is such an important guy, such a good guy for us that we're going to work with him and we're going to keep him up-to-date on what our plans are," Tobin said. "Any time you're at the top of the draft you have to consider every position and we're going to consider every position and see what we think is best for us going forward. When we make those decisions, we'll let people know.
"We're in constant contact with other teams. I have got a lot of friends around the league I talk to. If somebody is looking, they're normally reaching out and if we're looking, we're normally reaching out. A lot of those conversations start to happen here. Very little gets done here, but a lot of it starts to happen for sure."