September 30, 2014

It Will Be OK, I Promise

We go through this every year. The doors to the candy store burst open, and all the kids on the street flood the shop with gluttonous screams as they race toward the prizes of NFL Free Agency they have been dreaming of for months. Meanwhile, Bengals fans sit outside on the curb watching all of the fun because Dad won’t part with our allowance just yet.

It stinks to watch. Every year we get no closer than nose-pressed-to-glass bystanders while the others the treats. It is life as a Bengals fan.

However, we don’t often wake up with stomach ache, either, moaning over bloated contracts that started out so sweet but quickly turned sour. I won’t say never (Antonio Bryant, Laveranues Coles), but not often.

The fact of the is that it is far too easy to do something dumb in free agency. Teams are more disciplined during the draft, but free agency tempts all of us to believe that the right guy will unlock the legendary potential that will bring the prize jewel of postseason success. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it becomes a disaster. Mostly it turns out OK. But the big-time, headline-grabbing deals aren’t structured for just “OK” results.

That is why it is so easy to get burnt. And that is why the Bengals are bystanders during the sugar-induced frenzy of the early stages of free agency.

These first few days of free agency will be annoying, watching other teams grab the popular goodies and make the big splash. Sites like PFT.com will not feature the name “Bengals” much. But take heart. It will be OK, because ultimately teams are not built through free agency. Ask the Browns, the Eagles, the Cowboys or the Redskins.

While the Bengals have several holes to fill, they are not riddled with holes up and down the roster. Yes, they have significant needs at safety, linebacker, running back, perhaps at receiver and potentially at right tackle. All of those can be addressed in the first four rounds of the draft with good picks. With free agency, the front office will be looking for depth, which is where sustained success is built.

That means the Bengals will pass by a Reggie Bush and go for someone like Beanie Wells instead. They will eschew Dashon Goldson for a guy more like Glover Quin. And they will bypass a Philip Wheeler and hone in on someone more on the level of a Jason Philips. Not a lot of sugar in moves like those. But they are less likely to make you want to vomit if they don’t work out later, too.