The Cincinnati Bengals have stepped out of character over the course of the past two offseasons in being big spenders as a part of outside free agency. In 2020, they made two significant additions on defense in particular, signing cornerback Trae Waynes and defensive tackle D.J. Reader.
Of the two, they only managed a couple hundred snaps. Waynes was injured before the season even started, and Reader lasted five games before succumbing to injury himself. That was tens of millions of dollars in new investments sitting on the Reserve/Injured List.
That bad experience didn’t let the front office stop them, however. They continued to spend in free agency this year. Cincinnati signed Mike Hilton, formerly of the Steelers, Chidobe Awuzie, Trey Hendrickson, Riley Reiff, and Larry Ogunjobi.
While they’re excited about their new acquisitions, including the most recent draft class, the coaching staff is also fired up about getting their injured premiere free agents back from injury a year ago, as defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo told reporters that it felt like getting extra draft picks.
“One hundred percent, yes. D.J. Reader played only a couple hundred snaps for us last year. Trae Waynes didn’t play at all,” he said. “I look at it that way for sure. That’s two new additions to the team, even though they were both with us here last year.”
Of course, like the Cleveland Browns, the Bengals’ defense has had a long way to go. It’s no surprise that they have leaned heavily on veteran free agency over the course of the past two offseasons in order to try to turn the tide.
At the same time, they have also parted with numerous veterans, including the 2020 in-season trade of Carlos Dunlap. This offseason, they also released Geno Atkins, though they have left the door open to possibly bring him back. William Jackson III and Carl Lawson are among the players that they lost in free agency.
Their primary focus has actually been on the offense, even if they managed to avoid drafting a tackle until the fourth round. They did add a guard in Round 2, however, and devoted the fifth overall pick to securing wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for quarterback Joe Burrow, with whom he played at LSU.