Cincinnati Bengals' fans who have wanted the team to spend money on big name/big money free agents like Mario Williams and Pierre Garcon are missing something that Mike Brown and the rest of the Bengals' leadership know only too well: this is a good young team, and several of those good young players are going to be looking at large paydays in the next few years.
Bengals' owner Mike Brown mentioned the need to lock up such young stars as Carlos Dunlap, Andy Dalton and AJ Green as a big reason why the team was saving some of its NFL most $45 million in cap space for the future. Brown told Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson:
"You can't sign a player you drafted the first two years you have him by league rules, but there is going to come a time when we're going to want to sign them and we're going to want to be able to sign them. So it's part of our thinking."
Brown did just that last off season when he locked up T Andrew Whitworth, CB Leon Hall and C Kyle Cook with long-term deals. Although several players cannot be extended yet by league rules, look for players like Dunlap to be given raises and long term deals heading into the next off season.
What this does for the Bengals is two-fold: First, it ensures the Bengals are able to keep their top talent for the prime of their performances and it enables the team to control the cap damage over time. By avoiding the use of franchise tags or allowing a player to enter the open market, the organization can structure contracts for maximum benefit now and in the future.
Certainly the Bengals had enough room to go after players like Williams. The Bengals could have simply outbid any team for any player they may have wanted, but at what future price? Would securing a defensive player like Mario Williams be worth losing a player like Carlos Dunlap in two years? Would paying $8 million to Pierre Garcon as Washington did be smart when AJ Green will likely be commanding twice that in a few years?
What the Bengals did do was to take care of most of their own players like S Reggie Nelson while also addressing weak areas with less expensive free agents like G Travelle Wharton. Sure, Carl Nicks may be the best at that position, but is he worth that much more with regard to what he brings to the team than Wharton? Tampa Bay thought so, but we'll see if they still feel that way at the end of his deal.
Brown also told Hobson that he "feels better about our football team than I did when we started the process."
Mike Brown still has a ways to go to repair his well-earned image as a miserly owner content with losing frugally. For some, that image will be permanent. To this point, however, with each passing move, Mike Brown is strengthening his football team and making the Bengals into contenders for a long time to come.
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