The Cincinnati Bengals may never be the team that shocks the league with a major signing or significant change in how they operate. However, this offseason has shown they’re willing to bend a little.
The Bengals' trade for Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn is one of the most high-profile moves they’ve made in that area since they sent Carson Palmer to the Raiders for draft picks in 2011. For a team that stays fairly quiet on the trade market outside of the draft, that’s significant.
The Bengals have quietly made a lot of changes this offseason, something that’s flown under the radar in the wake of the announcement in January that Marvin Lewis would return for a 16th season.
Parting ways with longtime offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who had been with the Bengals since 1994, was a big move by itself, but the Bengals significantly overhauled their group of assistants, adding well-respected coaches like former Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack, former Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and former Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.
They also informed veteran cornerback Adam Jones they wouldn’t be picking up his option, one year after taking a lot of heat for vigorously defending him following an offseason arrest. Jones had been with the team since 2010 and was a team captain in 2016.
That’s a lot of change at once for an organization that prides itself on continuity. While the Bengals probably won’t show up in September with a totally new look, it would be impossible to stay stagnant with so many new voices in the meeting rooms this year.
It’s unclear if it was Pollack’s influence that caused the Bengals to go after Glenn, but it certainly deviated from the norm for a few reasons. The Bengals didn’t seem ready to give up on 2015 first-round tackle Cedric Ogbuehi last year, and that was one of the reasons veteran Andrew Whitworth left in 2017 free agency. But it seems the Bengals are ready to admit their mistake.
The move came with a price. The Bengals will now swap first-round picks with the Bills, dropping down from the 12th pick to the 21st, and they’ll also inherit Glenn’s hefty salary.
Glenn’s contract runs through 2020. He’ll earn $9.25 million in base salary this year, along with a $2 million roster bonus. He’ll also have the third-highest salary-cap number on the team this year.
However, the salary falls somewhat in line with what the Bengals offered Whitworth last year. Whitworth, now 36, was offered a one-year deal up to $10 million last season. He instead signed with the Rams for three years and $15 million guaranteed.
There’s some risk involved because Glenn missed 15 games with an injury the past two seasons, but it’s not an enormous risk. The Bengals can get out of the contract next year with no dead money involved if it doesn’t work out. Still, if the move fails and they move on next season, they don’t have a tackle ready to take his place unless they draft someone this year.
That kind of price tag and risk means the Bengals are moving on from Ogbuehi at left tackle. While he could be moved to another position, his time as a starter in Cincinnati is probably over, and it’s extremely unlikely the team picks up his fifth-year option.
It’s the right move, and the move that shows the Bengals are essentially admitting they made a mistake last year. The Bengals tend to see players through to the end of their contracts, and that could still be the case with Ogbuehi, who likely will finish out his contract this year as a backup.
But their loyalty to both staff and certain players hasn’t always paid off. They now sit at 27 seasons since their last playoff victory. Being willing to be flexible is a good first step. They need to continue this trend if they want to stay competitive this year and beyond.