The Bengals have certainly been in the news often this off-season for a number of reasons. Both Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have expressed their displeasure over their current contracts and at one point it looked as if both were going to skip the team’s mini-camp. The team also released oft-troubled WR Chris Henry and LB Odell Thurman – call it addition by subtraction – but both are gifted players who were looked to help the team contend again this coming season. Cincinnati failed to address its most glaring need in free agency, defensive tackle, but it’s not like they didn’t try. A deal for Shaun Rogers fell through, and he ended up coming here to Cleveland, and a deal for Dewayne Robison from the Jets also failed to materialize. And on top of all this the Bengals lost arguably their best defensive player in FA, Justin Smith. With all this in mind the Bengals’ draft went as follows (Thurman was still with the team at the time of the draft):
Round 1 – Keith Rivers, OLB, USC (9)
Round 2 – Jerome Simpson, WR, Costal Carolina (46)
Round 3 – Pat Sims, DT, Auburn (77)
Andre Caldwell, WR, Florida (97)
Round 4 – Anthony Collins, OT, Kansas (112)
Round 5 – Jason Shirley, DT, Fresno St. (145)
Round 6 – Corey Lynch, S, Appalachian St. (177)
Matt Sherry, TE, Villanova (207)
Round 7 – Angelo Craig, DE, Cincinnati (244)
Mario Urrutia, WR, Louisville (246)
The Bengals also signed three players this off-season:
- Darryl Blackstock, LB
- Antwan Odom, DE
- Ben Utecht, TE
So what does all this mean to the Browns and the rest of the AFC North? Well, besides the FA signings and possibly Rivers, the rest of the off-season acquisitions will more than likely be role players. Simpson will fill the void left by Henry and may be a viable option in the red zone with his size, but he will still be a work in progress, having not played against top competition.
It’s no secret that this team had trouble on the defensive side of the ball last season, and I don’t expect that to change either this year, mainly because they failed to address the defensive line in the early rounds of the draft (1st-2nd rounds). The pick of Rivers will help, if he was able to roam freely, but teams will be able to make sure he is limited in his involvement (much like teams were able to contain Kamerion Wimbley this past season). I don’t think it’s hard to predict this team going 6-10 or 5-11; they will win some games because they still have a potent offense, but that can only get you so far, as we found out last year with our beloved Browns.
Draft grade: C – What were they doing taking three wide receivers when they certainly had bigger needs? Yes, at the time it looked like Johnson would not play, but three seems a bit much.
Season prediction: 5-11, last in AFC North