Grading Cincinnati Bengals' Off-Season Moves So Far

By Cian Fahey
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The beginning of the off-season has come and gone. At this time of the year, many fans are just waiting around for the draft to begin while the teams themselves are tying up loose ends with free agents and preparing themselves for the highlight of the off-season in New York.

While they haven’t been the most active team so far this year, the Cincinnati Bengals have made enough moves (and non-moves) to create a base to build their season on. Now is a perfect time to sit back and take account of what exactly the Bengals have done to this point.

Franchise Tagging Michael Johnson:
More often than not, teams will prefer to come to a long-term deal with a prized free agent hitting the open market. However, the Bengals were probably always looking to lock Johnson up for just one season.

The 26-year-old was a third round pick of the Bengals back in 2009, but only really became a full-time starter this past season. Without proving his longevity over at least two years, the Bengals would have run the risk of signing a one-year-wonder to a long-term deal that would impact their cap in future years.

Instead, the Bengals were able to make use of their substantial cap space this to absorb the franchise tag hit without limiting themselves elsewhere.

Grade: A
Outside of somehow tying Johnson down to a cap-friendly long-term deal, this was the best move the Bengals could have made.

Re-signing Kevin Huber:
Huber is one of the better young punters in the league and he has improved every season since his rookie year. Re-signing him was a no-brainer for the Bengals.

Grade: A+
The Bengals couldn’t have done anything better.

Re-signing Mike Nugent:
Nugent may still see some competition in training camp, but the Bengals decided to go back to their long-term veteran. Nugent has been with the Bengals the past three years and that continuity likely kept him over Josh Brown.

Grade: C+
Brown was impressive during his short stint. While you can’t really knock Nugent’s ability, he hasn’t exactly been a superstar during his time in Cincinnati.

Re-signing Rey Maualuga:
It’s hard to defend the re-signing of Maualuga to Bengals’ fans, but it’s impossible knowing that he will be staying at middle linebacker. Had Maualuga been re-signed to play outside linebacker, this move would make a lot of sense. Otherwise, it’s hard to understand his value to the team.

Grade: D+
Maybe they just know something the rest of us don’t? Or is it too much loyalty.

Re-signing Wallace Gilberry:
Gilberry arrived in Ohio after the season began last year, but he quickly became an important piece of the defensive rotation.

Grade: B-
He’s not a star, but he is an important role player who contributed to the Bengals’ success last year.

Re-signing Adam Jones:
Jones has kept his nose clean in Cincinnati. More importantly, he has excelled on the field in a limited role.

Grade: B
Jones is a solid contributor on defense and an excellent returner on special teams. The Bengals got a bargain.

Re-signing Terence Newman:
Newman was a major surprise for the Bengals last season. The long-time veteran was brought in to compete for playing time, but quickly took over the starting role and excelled in a way he hadn’t since his prime.

Grade: A-
His role may change in 2013 if Dre Kirkpatrick develops as expected, but he should still be a valuable member of the roster.

Signing Josh Johnson:
Although the Bengals have won a lot of games with Andy Dalton as their quarterback, he is by no means a franchise quarterback at this point. That said, Johnson isn’t exactly a proven starter either.

Johnson should do enough to provide competition or at least make Dalton aware of his backup. With Bruce Gradkowski, he was certain he had a backup who was happy in that role. Johnson should still be pushing him for a starting place every day.

Grade: B
Backup quarterbacks isn’t an exciting topic, but Johnson is one of the more exciting propositions for any franchise to find.

Signing John Skelton:
Although primarily known as a part of the Arizona Cardinals‘ terrible quarterback carousel in recent years, Skelton is actually an excellent move for the Bengals.

Skelton did actually enter last season as the Cardinals’ starter and he is still relatively young with the physical tools to be a good backup.

Grade: B-
It’s almost impossible to complain when your team signs a former starter to be it’s third choice quarterback.

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