The Bengals have enraged their fan base, which seems to happen every single time free agency hits. But they just don't spend money on big name free agents. The downside is that some of those big name free agents are their own players. But not spending their money on them actually makes sense.
1. The best teams in the league don't go crazy in free agency. The worst teams always do. And it's happening again. The Browns might have the best line in football, but who is their quarterback? What running back do they have? Who are their receivers? How many games have the won in the last decade?
2. It's insane to pay Kevin Zeitler, who just signed with Cleveland, and Andrew Whitworth, who just signed with St. Louis, the money they got from those franchises. Cleveland made Zeitler the riches guard in NFL history! And Zeitler has never played in a Pro Bowl! That's the insanity of free agency. He plays guard. Not quarterback or cornerback. Guard. No one wins the Super Bowl because of a stellar guard. Ask the Cowboys how well their fantastic line worked for them in the playoffs. Who plays guard for the Pats? Exactly. But you know who their quarterback is, right? Whitworth is playing as well as any tackle in the NFL, but to give him 12 million per season at the age of 35? That's madness. Both of those guys will be lucky to win 9 games next year. Combined. Worse yet for the Browns is that they just drafted a guard in Cameron Erving in the second round in 2015. Sure he can play center, but they had Alex Mack there. You only need to spend huge in free agency when you bomb in the draft. And both St. Louis and Cleveland have done that. Thus, they spend like mad in free agency. And in terms of Whitworth, they Bengals - in 2005 - spent money extending Willie Anderson and Levy Jones, two aging tackles. Neither saw the life of their contracts because of injuries and steep decline in pay. So why break the bank for Whitworth to see his play drop at the age of 36, 37, and 38? Especially when you have two young kids behind them in Ogbuehi and Fisher? If you trust your scouts at all, you have to let those guys play.
3. You have to spend wisely. Remember, the Bengals are the Dave Ramsey of the NFL. They will make smart financial decisions and never find themselves having to purge their roster or cut guys because they can't live up to their deals. Like it or not, that's sound business. Just like the Steelers, the Packers, and the Pats run their franchises. When was the last time you saw either of those franchises cut an aging, overpriced vet? They lose players. You don't think Steelers fans were mad when they lost Mike Wallace or Emmanual Sanders? They were livid. Why lose playmakers in the prime of their careers? Because you replace them with an Antonio Brown and a Martivis Bryant.
4. Draft, develop, and retain. When you can't retain, you have to draft even better. That's been a problem for Cincy in the past two drafts. In 2011 (Green, Dalton, and Boling) draft, they got great value on those three picks as they are all on their second contracts and are earning starting spots on the team. In 2012 (Iloka) draft the Bengals again hit on a lot of picks (Sanu and Jones were lost in free agency last year), but they lost them and had to draft to replace them (for my money Boyd is the new Sanu and Core is the new Jones this year). In 2013 (Eifert, Bernard, and Williams) draft the Bengals again hit on some great starters. But things fell of in the 2014 and 2015 drafts due to injuries as some of their picks haven't developed as quickly as possible. But they will have to grow up quick this year or the Bengals are in trouble, but that is life in the NFL.