Ranking the 2014 Impact of Bengals' Free-Agent Signings so Far
The Cincinnati Bengals have remained relatively silent in free agency thus far, opting to retain their own when reasonable and find critical depth, but the moves the front office has made will have an impact right away.
Whether it is simply bringing back a player who did not find a new home on the market (Remember the turnaround Rey Maualuga had last season despite fan backlash over his re-signing?) or the rare free-agent acquisition, the Bengals have been meticulous in their approach.
Meaningful moves such as the ones the Bengals have made this offseason not only have a potential impact on the field, they free up cap space for future extensions and continue to allow the team to build through the draft.
While minimal, let’s take a moment to break down a few moves the Bengals have made and look at how they impact the team immediately and down the line.
5. Brandon Tate, WR
While a surprise to many, the Cincinnati Bengals brought back receiver Brandon Tate despite plenty of depth on the roster and no real room for further meaningful contributions.
After all, even with the loss of Andrew Hawkins, the team can rather easily find another kick-return specialist at some point in the draft. If all else fails, perhaps youngsters like Cobi Hamilton could step up next season.
Alas, the Bengals think highly enough of Tate to bring him back after a sound year on returns (a far cry from the norm). When the team announced the move, the staff sounded as if he will be around for the long haul, as captured by ESPN:
"We're glad to get back one of our core special teams players," special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said in a statement released by the team. "Brandon's numbers speak for themselves, and I've got a lot of confidence in him. I think this could be a real breakout year for him."
Tate did improve last year, but the fact remains that this is a low-impact move and the bottom of the totem pole as far as transactions for the franchise go this offseason.
4. Jason Campbell, QB
While this may come as a surprise to some fans, the signing of Jason Campbell means very little in the grand scheme of things for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sure, there is a propensity for Campbell being the missing piece in Andy Dalton’s development. Perhaps he simply needs a mentor looking over his shoulder, etc. etc.
But as far as immediate and long-term impact go, Campbell brings little to the table. He can step in and win games if necessary, but through three years Dalton has missed no games.
Furthermore, it's hard to imagine the team brought Campbell on to compete for the starting gig.
That said, it would be pretty interesting to see what the coaching staff does if Campbell wildly outplays Dalton in the preseason.
Campbell is a very, very smart move for Cincinnati overall on the rare chance Dalton goes down with an injury, but to expect anything more is simply misplaced hope. His addition does not even prevent the addition of a rookie signal-caller if the team elects to go that route.
3. Marshall Newhouse, OT
With Anthony Collins gone, the Cincinnati Bengals hit the market in search of a swing tackle who can play either tackle spot on the chance an injury occurs.
Make no mistake—like Collins, Marshall Newhouse is not going to challenge for a starting gig. Unlike Collins, Newhouse’s track record when asked to take a starting role is not exactly superb.
Newhouse spent three years as a starter in Green Bay. In 2011, he ranked as the No. 76 overall tackle in the NFL—on a list that graded 76 players, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In 2012, he came in at No. 54. He didn't play enough snaps in 2013 to qualify.
Not exactly a praiseworthy rap sheet, but Newhouse does have starting experience and a rapport with Andy Dalton thanks to their days at TCU together. That’s important in the grand scheme of things should the Bengals need him to come in and play, and the front office took a much-maligned lineman by the name of Mike Pollak off the market last year to great results.
2. Taylor Mays, S
Fans have a right to be critical of Taylor Mays, who has had quite the tumultuous NFL career to this point after being one of the most highly regarded safeties to enter the pros in quite some time.
Mays has struggled during his time in Cincinnati, but the coaching staff unearthed a new use for the USC product just before he went down with a shoulder injury last season.
Rather than have Mays play a traditional role in the back end of the defense, the Bengals gave the starting nod across from Reggie Nelson to George Iloka and had Mays play a hybrid linebacker-safety role in select packages.
Mays excelled in this role with his range of responsibilities reduced and instinctual reaction increased, so it makes sense that the staff wants to bring him back for another go at it. If he continues to do well, the Bengals have a hybrid defensive back who can fill multiple roles given a scenario. If not, the deal is rather easy to get out of in its current form.
1. Mike Pollak, OG
As mentioned, Mike Pollak had quite the career turnaround with the Cincinnati Bengals. Last season, in spot duty thanks to injuries along the line, he saw action in eight games and ranked as the No. 29 overall guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
It’s not something in the water in Cincinnati when it comes to offensive linemen—coach Paul Alexander is just that good.
Still, this news would not normally rank so highly, but the release of center Kyle Cook speaks volumes as to how the team feels about Pollak. According to Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, there is a strong chance the staff wants him to compete with Trevor Robinson (and maybe a rookie) for the starting gig:
Have to believe they like the idea of moving Mike Pollak to center. Also, draft deep in guards/tackles should offer OL depth.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) March 11, 2014
The Bengals have very few needs when it comes to starters, but center is absolutely one. Pollak may be the solution to one of the more important positions on the field (especially with a quarterback like Andy Dalton under center), so Pollak is easily the most important move the team has made to this point in free agency.
Note: All signing and contract details courtesy of Spotrac.