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Trent Brown Signing Anchors Bengals' Impactful Free-Agent Haul As Draft Comes Up On Radar: 'The Right Guys For What We Do'

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) tries to get around New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) tries to get around New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

After signing massive pass-protector Trent Brown Tuesday to use his decade-long NFL experience to shield Joe Burrow at right tackle this year, the move appeared to send the Bengals steaming with momentum into the next phase of the offseason.

Free-agent signings start to slow and the focus turns to next month's suddenly flexible draft where anything goes at No. 18.

The Bengals' tenacious tandem of director of pro scouting Steven Radicevic and senior personnel executive Trey Brown oversaw a frenetic first eight days of free agency capped Tuesday with Brown's one-year deal.

The haul yielded six regulars and/or starters from other clubs that are believed to count more than $30 million against this year's salary cap and checked most of the unchecked boxes that loomed after the season. Maybe the biggest. With a tackle in the fold, No. 18 in the draft's first round is a little more comfortable best player available scenario.

Their work seems to be a hit in the locker room.

"I feel like the moves we made as an organization have all been the right ones in terms of just getting people for what we do," said left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who was a factor in the recruiting of that other huge book-end tackle by the name of Brown. "They didn't go out and sign the flashiest names. But they got all the right guys for what we do."

"Doubles, doubles," said Radicevic of those solid college and pro prospects with value price tags.

The Bengals put the bat on the ball in the early hours of free agency for two-baggers when they found their true center-field safety in Geno Stone, a veteran-in-the-box-signal-calling safety in old friend Vonn Bell, a young running back who fits head coach Zac Taylor's system (Zack Moss), and a proven pass-catching tight end (Mike Gesicki) who has shown he can be a dangerous target for quarterback Joe Burrow.

A nice value for this season at an estimated $17 million total cap hit.

But then it got hard for Radicevic and Trey Brown as they focused on re-signing nose tackle DJ Reader. The frustration grew with the escalating deals for the defensive tackles. They were talking to players like Reader and the just-released Arik Armstead, among others. Others didn't have passing grades or weren't locker-room fits.

No deals, but, as Radicevic says, he and Trey Brown patiently "kept plowing fields." The Bengals kept pace in the trench wars with $26 million over two years for Sheldon Rankins' productivity rushing the passer from the interior, which they really needed. Call it a ground-rule double.

They thought they could get both Rankins and Reader, but Reader left for Detroit late in the week.

"It was a good market for D-Tackles. I think a lot of teams saw what was coming in the draft and felt the need to spend there," Radicevic said. "We were hopeful to try and keep DJ. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. I think Rankins is going to do a great job filling a different type of void."

With Reader gone, the Bengals stepped back and looked at their board through a big-picture lens. Best player at a premium position. There were some Bengals insiders who were reminded of the moment last year when deals to keep Bell and tight end Hayden Hurst fell through and they turned their attention to Orlando Brown Jr.

There were some intriguing edge guys out there (Chase Young), but it not only had to be a premium position fit, it had to be a value fit and a one-year deal for Trent Brown solved their Opening Day right tackle puzzle.

"They told me that they were just looking for someone who was coming to play. First and foremost, they said they believed in me, they believed in my game, they liked my game and they said how I play the game is everything they believe in," Brown said.

Brown got the call from his agent Sunday that the Bengals wanted to bring him in for a visit and physical. With players like Orlando Brown and Bengals center Ted Karras endorsing him, Trent Brown had a deal by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

"The thing about him is for being in the league as long as he has, he's a veteran who wants to win," said Orlando Brown Jr., who got to know Trent at a Pro Bowl where the NFL's two biggest tackles commiserated.

"That's what we're getting. A Pro Bowl-level player who is motivated. He's at a different point in his career and outlook and he wants to win championships. Those are the type of people that are going to help us take it to the next level and bring a Super Bowl to Cincinnati and I think Trent Brown is one of those people."

He's a classic Bengal pickup in the tradition of Adam Jones, Reggie Nelson, Mike Hilton, and B.J. Hill. A change of scenery vaulting talented players to stardom or back to past brilliance. Brown hasn't been back to the Pro Bowl since 2019, after a trade from the Raiders to the post-Brady Patriots the past three seasons.

"I don't want to really get into the last couple years. Let's just talk about right now," Brown said. "I feel like I'll be worried less and be able to worry about playing football. I won't have to worry about any off-the-field things, and I'll be able to just enjoy coming to work on a day-to-day basis. And that was important as well when we talk about fit."

Dante Scarnecchia, Brown's position coach for one season that turned out to be the year Brown protected Brady's blindside on the way to the 2018 Super Bowl title, is like the former Bengals coach Jim McNally, a towering offensive line guru. Reached in Foxboro Tuesday, he wishes Brown only good things.

"He's a giant. He's still a great talent," Scarnecchia said. "He's long, he's strong. He's a physical guy … I think he's still got it in him and to go to a team like the Bengals with that system of offense and defense and is a good team with a lot of good players, I'm sure (offensive line coach Frank Pollack) is going to do a great job with him.

"I know the year I coached him, he was a pleasure to be around … He bought in and he had a really good player next to him in (left guard) Joe Thuney and between the two of them they were awfully, awfully good."

Brown, who turns 31 in three weeks, has been raving about playing next to right guard Alex Cappa. Rankins, who hits 30 in two weeks, is reunited with his edge on the Saints, Trey Hendrickson. The Bengals don't usually go for players on that side of 30. But these are two big guys who have shown no signs of hitting a wall on short deals.

And, it's exactly what Orlando Brown is talking about. Trent Brown is a bear of a one-on-one pass protector and that's what the Bengals do.

"I'm very comfortable doing that. That's what I do best. I think that's why I'm here," Trent Brown said of one-on-one.  "You won't find another tackle in the league or in the game of football today that does that better than me. I have a unique set of skills and being able to play both sides that way. And credit to God and my parents for that."


"They've got all the right guys for what we do. That's when you get the best value for the players you're bringing in," Orlando Brown said. "Simply play the way they've been playing. Zach Moss is a good runner out of the (shot) gun and is a pass protector for a back. That fits us and you know what you're getting. Geno Stone is ball-hawking true free safety. What you guys had in Jessie Bates last year. That was an element that was missing."

Trent Brown heard that, too, during the recruiting pitch.

"They feel like this what was missing to help get them over the top," the new Brown said. "I was excited about that and I'm even more excited to be here."

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