When the Cincinnati Bengals, like any other franchise, make a personnel decision, there are a lot of factors that determine the outcome. On the onset it appears that it would be simply: Does this player improve our team? Is the compensation owed equal to the improvement we would gain? However, one of the many reasons there are so few trades in the NFL is because making deals in the NFL is not that simple.
On the day before the extended NFL trade deadline passes, the Bengals are as likely a candidate as any to make a deal happen. After seven games of the 2012 season, the Bengals are third in the AFC North behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. The disappointment that comes with their 3-4 record is only eclipsed by a 1-2 record at home, that featured losses to two other potential AFC playoff contenders.
The Bengals have stuttered offensively, despite the emergence of AJ Green into arguably the very best wide receiver in the whole league. As Green continues to reach for the stars, the team is still waiting for a second receiver to step up, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been disappointing after arriving in free agency to be the starting tailback.
Because both of those areas appear fixable with trades, it makes sense that the Bengals would make a move to upgrade their offense and improve their chances of returning to the playoffs this season. However, like I said, it’s never that simple.
Even though the Carolina Panthers‘ DeAngelo Williams and the St. Louis Rams‘ Steven Jackson would be affordable and high quality additions in areas of need, neither back would fit in the franchise’s natural development curve.
Every NFL franchise has a development curve. The development curve is the route which teams follow to move from a cellar-dwelling team to a championship contender. No team immediately moves from a pretender to a contender, as the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills have proven in recent times. Instead gradual movement in the right direction is the best way of establishing continuous success in the long-term.
For the Bengals, the team is about where it should be. Fans were fortunate last season when rookies Andy Dalton and Green gave them a surprise trip to the playoffs, but the reality is when you install a new quarterback to lead the franchise you expect some growing pains. This season Dalton has endured more growing pains than he did last season.
That is not ideal, but it is not a real problem either. The Bengals have a relatively young roster, and even more importantly the majority of their primary pieces to build around are still before their primes.
Therefore, instead of adding a 29 year old Jackson or Williams in lew of a future draft pick, the Bengals would be better suited to keep that pick and acquire a player who can help them in the long-term. Running-backs are not difficult to find. Trading away any future picks for a veteran does not fit the team’s current blueprint towards a successful future.
Replacing Green-Ellis could help the team’s playoff push this year, but not greatly. Adding a second starting receiver would essentially mean that the team is giving up on the potential of receivers Armon Binns, Andrew Hawkins, Mohamed Sanu, Ryan Whalen and Marvin Jones to start. Instead relegating them to third receiver roles.
There is also no guarantee that bringing in a supposedly starting caliber receiver would instantly improve the offense. Receivers generally need time to develop a rapport with their quarterbacks. That rapport is something that Dalton is still working on with his current teammates. He doesn’t need another distraction to work with.
If the Bengals do look to trade pieces before the trade deadline, it wouldn’t make sense for their franchise’s identity to pursue a reputable veteran for a bloated price. Instead of sending a third or even fourth round pick to the Rams or Panthers, the Bengals would be smarter to add a younger weapon like Chris Ivory from the New Orleans Saints for a much smaller price. Ivory may not drastically help the Bengals chances of succeeding now, but he would offer the potential of a player who fits with the team’s development curve.
The Bengals may have an extra second round pick next season, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to be negligent with other selections.
Cian Fahey writes for RantSports, Irishcentral, Balls.ie and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf