What are your overall thoughts on the draft class?
"I'm really happy how it shook out. We had a chance to add three guys that we worked with at the Senior Bowl. So that week had a really big effect on how we were able to approach things, even though we only coached one of them — two of them, we got to be familiar with over the course of that week. We felt like we really had intimate knowledge of those guys, and that really helped us. For where these guys were at and we were able to grab them, I think we really helped ourselves — not just this weekend, but really, over the last month-and-a-half. We put ourselves in a really good position — not only from starters that we've acquired, but players that are going to add depth and value there. I'm really excited about how the weekend has shaken out."
Is there a player that was available that you thought would never be there when it was time to pick him?
"I'd say (for) a couple of them, we had higher grades than where we ended up getting them. Again, that's really good for us. We feel like these guys are all good scheme-fits for us. They're all going to compete for a lot of playing time, (and) they all have the intangible qualities that we've identified that we need to continue to add to our organization. I'm just really excited how it all shook out."
You took a lot of swings at linebacker. How much is that just trying to get as much quantity as you can, and then figure out what quality you've got?
"Like I said, we did a ton of work on those guys over the course of this offseason. That's a real credit, not only to Duke (Tobin) and his staff, but to our coaching staff on that side of the ball, and our special teams guys. At the end of the day, those guys were there, and we felt like we had to grab them. We didn't necessarily go into the day saying we had to draft three (linebackers), but the way it shook out, those guys are going to bring value to us and have a good chance to get on the field. So we felt like (they were) too good to pass up."
It seemed like every guy you took was a captain or a coach's son. It seems like you have a vision for the locker room, with a lot of the guys you took ...
"Yes, but it's a mixture of guys that have talent and fit our needs. And, on top of that, (they) have the high character, and intangibles, and the work ethic, and the consistency that we're looking to add as well. It's not just, 'Let's take a nice guy that tries to do things the right way, but can't play a lick.' We identified the guys that had a combination of both, and we felt really good about adding all of them."
As far as free agency goes, is there still a need that's glaring to you that you would like to add some guys at that position?
"No, not glaring. That's a conversation I just left a second ago. We've had this conversation leading up to the draft — about how many we'll add — and we're continuing through it right now ... who those targets could potentially be, and how they'll fit for us. But I wouldn't say there's a glaring need. You typically try to add one or two at each position. We feel good about the guys that we identified. Hopefully they survive through the draft — unfortunately for them, and fortunately for us in some ways. But we'll see how that part finishes out."
The complaint in the Twitter universe is not addressing the offensive line more, or earlier. How much does this affirm that you like what you already have on the roster?
"Yeah, and again, it was more the guys that were sitting there at other positions — particularly at receiver and linebacker. We had really high opinions of those guys. To just say that maybe you've got a need somewhere, and you're going to pass up the value that those guys bring, is not something that we wanted to do. We're not saying that the way we played on offense last year, particularly up front, was acceptable and that's the standard we want to set. We're just saying we had some guys that were too good to pass up. We added Akeem Adeniji. We think really highly of him. He's got tackle/guard (flexibility). He played four years as a starter at tackle for Kansas. He was a captain. He was at the Senior Bowl, and played guard (there) all week, and did a nice job, so he's got good flexibility. He's got a high football IQ. So we did address some depth there. He'll get in there and challenge, and mix it up for a role there."
Was Markus Bailey the best on your board for the seventh round?
"Correct, yes. We're really excited about Markus."
What's his big attribute?
"We had a lot of value for him. For him to fall where he did, we could not pass him up. Great attitude, great work ethic. We thought he was a tremendous player for (Purdue). Our linebacker coaches, who did a lot of the work, and (defensive coordinator) Lou (Anarumo) did a lot of work, and our scouts — they all had him as a highly-rated player who fell to us in the seventh, and we just couldn't pass on him."
Coming off the torn ACL, is there a thought that this could be a redshirt year for him, so to speak?
"We'll see how it goes. He is coming off the injury. Again, we'll just see how it shakes out here in a couple weeks, as we get closer to training camp. Again, (he was) someone we wanted to grab hold of, and just see how it shakes out with him."
Are you guys done for the day?
"Never say never, but we anticipate ourselves getting ready for free agency at this point."
You had a lot of good first impressions at the Senior Bowl. When you're going through the process, how do you make sure you don't fall in love with the guys you saw there early, and that they really were one of the top guys throughout the whole process?
"I think what went into it was that we'd come out of that (Senior Bowl) week, and we did a good job of sitting down and (voicing) the opinions we formed over the course of the week. Then you spend the next two months verifying that opinion, or finding information that says we were duped one way or the other. We just felt really good about the research we did on all those players — that what we felt was verified. There were some guys we probably liked during the Senior Bowl that, as we went through the process, we maybe didn't like as much, or the other way around. We didn't write anyone off from going there that week, and we tried not to overly fall in love with being around a guy for a week. We wanted to make sure that the tape matched that, that what people said in their college programs matched that. And in these three cases, it all held up."
Is it safe to say throughout this process that you drafted not from a position of need, but for the best player available?
"It was really a balance of both. We did feel like we wanted to get some linebackers that we could add to (the mix). That's why we did so much work on them. But then, the value just kept being there, over and over. So it was a combination of the two. We identified areas that we wanted to hit, and we felt like the right players were there, so we didn't overdraft a position that we went into the draft targeting. Again, we feel very good about how it all ended up."
Did you receive any offers for Andy Dalton over the weekend?
"We'll keep that information to ourselves right now."
Where do you think that stands now with the draft over? Is Dalton still going to be a Bengal?
"We're going to keep addressing that over this weekend. He certainly is right now, as he has been all along. Now that the draft's over, we'll let the dust settle and talk through it."
Were you close to making any trades today, either up or down?
"There are a lot of phone calls that are made throughout the draft. You always weigh them all (the offers), but ultimately, we felt it was in our best interest to stay put. Either there were players there we really liked, or the options presented to us we weren't in love with. Over the course of the draft, you field a lot of phone calls. Sometimes it's not worthy of consideration — people just throwing it out there. We felt good about staying put."
Three days ago, would you have been surprised you made only seven picks this weekend?
"I don't know. We certainly thought it was a possibility. Every round, we're glad with who we got at the top. I would have been surprised three days ago that those guys were available where they were. If you told me that, I probably wouldn't have believed you. We're happy they were there."
Can you clarify the offseason schedule now?
"We start Monday with our veterans. You're given a four-week period to select three consecutive weeks that you can do work up until Friday, May 15. Then, they reevaluate where things stand nationwide with all the clubs. We chose to start April 27, instead of April 20. That way, we get three consecutive weeks that will butt up into that next decision the league will make. We'll start on Monday with our guys. We can go only four days a week, and we can only virtually meet with them for two hours during those days. That starts Monday, which is exciting for all of us."
"The rookies cannot start until May 11, with their rookie program. They can't be reintegrated with the rest of our guys until then. What can happen with them is we were given either this upcoming weekend or the following weekend to meet for three consecutive days for five hours a day virtually with the players. So now you can meet with them as a unit — a position group — or individually. We will likely move forward with that, starting on Friday for us, utilizing those three days. As a position coach, you can then talk football one-on-one with those rookies up until that May 11 date. You have to allow them time to finish classes if they need to. You have to get with them and make sure there's a good time that works."
"Other than the rookie minicamp, you cannot meet with them as a group. For example, these linebackers we just drafted, they won't all be able to meet collectively until May 11, outside of that rookie minicamp. They can meet one on one with coach Golden at a time that fits their schedule."
How important has establishing a culture been since the end of last season?
"I think it's really important. You're looking for guys that are going to be consistent day to day. (Guys who) are going to give their best effort, but also challenge those around them and not accept anything that's less than somebody's best. We're not just trying to win games — we're trying to win championships. Ultimately, you have to think long-term with that championship mindset. People that are willing to work harder than any team in the league. We feel like we've added the right people. Not for one second did we compromise talent with the guys we added. That's a credit to Duke Tobin, Mike Potts, Christian Sarkisian, Steve Radicevic, Andrew Johnson and Bill Tobin — all of those guys doing that work over the last 12 months. And then the coaches jumping in as well and providing their efforts. Sometimes you can say someone is a high character guy, but you maybe have to research to find out if the talent is good enough. Our staff did an excellent job of finding the right guys with combinations of both things — character and talent. That's going to make us a better team."
You're also looking for guys with an edge, right?
"When you say a guy with an edge, that's a guy who's not afraid to hold his teammates to a higher standard. They have a killer instinct on the field playing against an opponent, but at the same time, that's not where most of your time is spent. Most of your time is spent in meeting rooms, on practice fields, or doing individual stuff. We're going to get to where we want to go if not just the coaches hold the players to a high standard, but the players hold themselves to that standard. I thought we made a lot of progress with that as the season went on, and that was good to see. The next thing I saw was over the course of this draft, our current players and even the rookies we just selected, reaching out to new players. That makes me really excited, when I have current players texting me for phone numbers for guys that are maybe going to be competing with them for a job or are adding to their side of the ball, even a guy that is going to play across from them. That tells me we're heading in the right direction with the approach our players are taking."
How many players asked for Joe Burrow's number?
"I'd say a good amount. But it wasn't just Joe, it was all of those guys. That was really cool to see. I know with Joe, this is the rookie class he's coming in with, and he's been asking for those guys' numbers as we drafted them as well. I know he's been in touch with the guys we've selected today."
How surprising was it to see Akeem Davis-Gaither sitting there for you in the fourth round?
"It was really exciting. We're fired up he was there. Lou spoke earlier on him, but you go to the Senior Bowl, and he's the first one in the meeting — the first one to do the work asked of him. He was able to specifically make corrections over the course of the game. He played in space a lot at Appalachian State, so playing against 12 or 21 personnel at the games was probably new to him. You see him make a mistake earlier in the game, and you point it out to him to correct it. He's already upset at himself in a good way, and knows what he has to correct, and he goes out there and makes it. You see right away that that guy will be able to make the transition. He's going to be able to put in the work and has traits we're looking for at the linebacker spot."
Does making only seven picks free up money for additional college free agents?
"We budgeted pretty well for those guys. The conversation I just had was making sure we're all on the same page there. That's the biggest challenge virtually — (getting) everyone on the same page with how we're going to spend that money. Everybody in the building has done a great job, and we're going through that right now to make sure we're all on the same page."