Okay folks, we're dusting the screen off and firing up the blog again (at least, we're gonna try). There have been some very important recent developments that need to be addressed. All of them positive, all of them welcome, and all of them wonderfully surprising given the Bengals track record.
Let's just dive right in.
First, there was rumor the Bengals would make changes in the personnel department and now there is confirmation that at least one hire has been made. That hire is Steven Radicevic. A few things of note for now:
- Steven will have the designation "west coast regional scout" or some such title, which, is the type of title you see in teams with front offices that have excellent long term track records of success (Raven, Steelers). Hooray.
- Steven has no apparent family or friend relationship to the Brown's that would indicate this is a nepotistic hire in nature.
- Steven, in fact, seems to have both a solid resume in his professional career (though the exact nature of his past job at UCLA isn't entirely clear to me) and also experience as a player in college.
This is without question a positive development. While the Bengals have made decent decisions with their old way of doing things the past few years, they have never actually addressed anything core to our Manifesto of demands. This finally does. And let's not underestimate that. Now, I do want to add that with Jim Lippincott leaving, this again isn't necessarily a beefing up of the department, but merely a replacement. It is similar to the signing of Coles & Bryant in that it felt like an unusual move but was in fact merely replacing a lost employee (in this case TJ). However, Jim Lippincott was head/director of personnel, not a scout, so thinking of Steven as replacing him may not be the proper way to think about it. Hopefully there is more to come.
Third, let's just talk the Bengals strategy vis a vis the salary floor/cap in 2011, this offseason, and going into 2013 when the floor/cap is truly back in place for individual teams (this should really be its own post but whatever). With no individual team floor/cap last season and this season, some strategies immediately come to mind.
For example, let's say you are a contender with deep pockets...think Jets, Pats, Eagles or Steelers (to a lesser extent). With no real cap, you can spend big and make a run and worry about the consequences later. The consequences will really come due in 2013, but depending on contract expirations and if you want to spread the impact of the consequences out over a couple years then you can start in 2012 as well. The consequences of course are simply needing to cut players with big salaries. The Steelers are a team that spent big and is deciding to take their lumps now, for example, cutting key players on offense and defense. As a side note, I think their gamble was mostly intelligent, because if Ben Rongrastname hadn't gotten hurt at the end of the year, I think they easily could be Superbowl champs right now (thankfully, he got hurt).
Now, let's say your not a contender or a team without deep pockets...given you know some teams will follow the above strategy, you can craft another strategy to exploit that. Basically, outside of a few core players you want to build around, there is no point in signing any high priced talent. In fact, you can let people go and potentially get draft picks in return that are more valuable given the new rookie wage scale rules. You aren't going to really contend anyway so might as well keep the salary low. By drafting well and shedding salary, when the big spenders have to cut salary to meet cap/floor in 2012 and 2013 then you can spend to potentially get great players who are unexpectedly hitting the market because of the one time need to make cuts to meet individual floor/cap in 2013. Now, the danger here is that if you don't start spending in free agency a little bit in 2011 and 2012 then you are going to have to spend a ton all in 2013 whether there are good options available for that money or not. So you would be wise to not go completely nuts and keep salary at a bare minimum for both 2011 and 2012.
This second strategy is largely what the Bengals have chosen to do. Now, I don't want to say their intentions were all that good or that this was necessarily the right strategy. For one, if they didn't literally make Carson feel the need to retire through botching his career, they actually had potential to contend with Palmer. Also, it seems like they viewed the lack of floor more as an opportunity to reap a financial windfall rather than execute a shrewd strategy to build a great core of players. You can see this when they chose not to sign JJoe. They could have signed him and still had tons of financial flexibility. Zim was allegedly furious when he heard JJoe was gone, and for good reason. The Bengals to this day carry an unreasonably low payroll assuming they don't make any moves outside of the draft.
But again, we can't undo the past. The fact is that the Bengals have 1)a stockpile of money, 2)a good young team, 3)miraculously their excellent coaching staff in place (and beefed up actually), 4)lots of draft picks in a good draft, and 5)a deep free agent market due to cuts from teams that overspent (I think the availability of talent from cuts is really surprising people right about now...it shouldn't have). They are holding a really fucking great hand. They need to play it well.
At this point, the moves the Bengals have made in the past half year have been mostly astonishing. They have a long way to go still but the direction has been positive. What I am looking for now is continued movement in a positive direction. The strategy has worked. While the Steelers are gutting the heart of their team, the Bengals are in position to build a long term contender (side note, sign Farrior now please).
In other words, I'm looking for evidence that confirms the recent underlying trend that the Bengals are modernizing slowly. Here's some things that would serve as confirming evidence to me:
- As this article by Chris Wesseling and Evan Silva illustrates, it's an INCREDIBLY deep Free Agent market at WR. I agree with Joe Reedy that the Bengals are better served acquiring a veteran to start opposite AJ Green than finding someone in the draft. Now the Bengals have really fallen on their face with veteran WR free agents recently but there's never been a class like this. It should be very realistic for them to get a productive veteran WR.
- The Bengals shouldn't just limit consideration to WR in free agency. There are lots of good names, for example on offensive line and RB (Bush!), and they should selectively look to add guys with proven track records in the prime of their careers as they build salary to meet the 2013 individual team limits.
- Hire more personnel in the scouting department. The Bengals have lots of draft picks and they need get the right people in there to make sure they get right guys. Now that they've gone out and hired outside the friend/family group, I don't see why they wouldn't add a couple more people. The line has been crossed. Just keep going, Mikey, dammit. I had a Twitter exchange with John Thornton about scouts. He believes you don't need a huge scouting department to succeed. I am sympathetic to this, but you definitely need more eyeballs evaluating talent than the Bengals currently have, so add more please!
- Improving facilities. The Bengals made the move to bring camp to PBS. It should help drive revenue not only for them, but more importantly, to the city (even if marginal). They need to follow this up with building the facilities needed to practice and train in the modern NFL.
I am HOPING the Bengals make moves similar to the above. But I am also very cautious with my expectations because this team has destroyed hope for so long. I could easily see a scenario where the Bengals sit on their hands and just assume the good young core will develop well enough to fill the stands. And I could easily see them sitting tight, reaping another windfall without a floor this year, and then spending money to meet the floor in 2013 very poorly.
But for the first time in a very long time, there is evidence that Management is not just conducting business as usual in Cincinnati.