Duke Tobin says the Bengals are going to have a chance at one of the NFL Draft's top players with the fifth pick later this month and aren't interested in losing a premier prospect with a trade.
But in Monday's Bengals Booth podcast with play-by-play announcer Dan Hoard and an interview with Bengals.com, Tobin, the club's director of player personnel, said they'll listen to all trade offers.
Other topics Tobin also addressed:
- After the Bengals spent north of $30 million in 2021 salary cap dollars to acquire five starters in free agency, he believes the Bengals have opened up the draft board.
"What we were able to do in free agency is fill enough needs where we can go into the draft and feel good about taking the best players available," Tobin said. "And not passing up super-talented players to make maybe a reach for a position of need. What we got accomplished in free agency, I feel like we're in a position to do that."
- Tobin has no problem with acquiring four new defensive starters age 27 or younger. Three of them, edge rusher Trey Hendrickson, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and slot cornerback Mike Hilton all signed four-year deals and Tobin views them as "ascending players." As he does 26-year-old defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, a guy that signed a one-year deal but one they hope to sign long-term if it pans out.
"We hit on defense, which is fine by me. Where we were, we needed help there. We needed some new names, some new faces, some guys coming from other programs and guys with careers left in them," Tobin said. "Guys with success and toughness and swagger. When the opportunities came on defense, we didn't turn them down.
"We're pleased with the way it happened. You have to look at free agency to where the depth is, where the opportunity is and then adapt to that. It doesn't always line up with your number one needs."
- Re-signing eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins to a lower deal remains an option after releasing him last month.
"Geno is one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the best defensive tackles of the last decade," Tobin said. "He gave us what he had last year … We'll see if there are things that can be worked out. If it is, great. If not, I think we've got other guys that can fill the role."
- The signing of Vikings right tackle Riley Reiff, the impending health of some incumbents and the prospect of adding to the Opening Day offensive line with a deep draft have Tobin confident about the position.
"We're looking at adding guys who are better, not just guys who have names," said Tobin, still on the lookout for vets. "If we add there, we want it to be an upgrade … I've got a belief the group is going to progress and be part of a winning offense. We're still a long way from Opening Day."
But not that long from the draft and while Tobin didn't specifically address Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts individually, he praised them enough as a group.
"All three are high-level prospects at the top of the draft and guys we feel like could fit us and make us a better team," Tobin said.
Sewell's 33 1/4–inch arms, viewed as short by some for a tackle, don't seem to bother Tobin.
"All measurables you get are points of reference, but the No. 1 point of reference is how that guy plays," Tobin said. "You like numbers to quantify what you're seeing, but I don't put limits or hard and fast rules on any kid's length or measurement.
"I'm a bigger is better guy all the time. Bigger is better. Stronger is better. Faster is better. Smarter is better. Tougher is better. Unfortunately not everybody has every one of those aspects at an elite level and you've got to determine what you're willing to put up with and what you're not."
The trio certainly seems to be the kind of blue chip players they're seeking with the fifth pick. As for a trade, he indicated he didn't want to pass on an elite player for a might-be down the line.
"We feel we're in a good spot. We're going to be careful not to be overly greedy and get out of a spot where we maybe lose a premier player and we feel like can get one of the premier players in this draft," Tobin said. "We feel there are enough guys with the fifth pick in the draft to get a real guy that we feel comfortable with. And hits in a position of need."
Tobin says they've spent a lot of time looking at offensive line in this draft, a deep group, he says, where starters abound.
"There are guys that will be available in the second, third rounds that have starter grades on them," he said. "Maybe they'll last longer than that, too. It's a position group we've been focused on and we think having healthy guys there and the addition of Riley Reiff, we think we're in a better spot than we were and there'll be additions."
When it comes to paying guards, Tobin said the Bengals play players, not positions. When Joe Thuney went to the Chiefs on an $80 million deal, it was the price, not the position or player.
"We wanted to maximize our dollars on as many players as we can," Tobin said. "We had enough needs where we didn't want to go after somebody that would take it all. We ended up spending a lot of money on different guys and we think we filled our roster that needed filling in a lot of spots."
Tobin's mantra of signing only upgrades and not names from the past underscores why Reiff is currently their only free agent on the offensive line. He has produced and not merely survived.
Protecting quarterback Joe Burrow is at a premium and Reiff did it for Matthew Stafford and the Bengals feel like incumbent guards Quinton Spain and Xavier Su'a-Filo are good pass protectors.
(Reiff) gives us a proven player with experience, a player with leadership, a player with toughness. A player that brings other guys along," Tobin said. "A player that's played in high level passing offenses that have thrown the ball all the time. With Minnesota the guy showed he could be part of a dynamic run game. The guy's got experience doing both and he's got position versatility and willingness to play where he's needed here."