The Cincinnati Bengals lost their second and third wide receivers last offseason, along with a few other pieces, and everything fell apart. The team went from five straight playoff appearances and a NFC North division title to a sub-.500 record and top 10 draft pick.
As the team looks to recapture their overlooked consistency, they are doing so without making wholesale off-field changes. Head coach Marvin Lewis is back for his 15th season with the team.
Here are the three best moves and the worst one made by the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason.
#1. No knee-jerk moves in free agency
The Bengals lost several big pieces from the past few seasons. Departing players like tackle Andrew Whitworth, guard Kevin Zeitler and defensive tackle Domata Peko were a big part of what success they had last year and in previous seasons.
Those losses will hurt, but the team was disciplined and did not overreact and by dropping long-term contracts on high-priced free agents. In fact, the only multi-year deals they handed out went to re-signing cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and receiver Brandon LaFell. Their other five signings totaled just over $11 million and guaranteed just over $4 million.
According to contract and salary cap website Spotrac, the Bengals spent the fewest money of any NFL team this offseason. It may not pay dividends this season, but that cap space will pay off more in the long run.
#2. Signing Kevin Minter
Linebacker Kevin Minter had a breakout season for the Arizona Cardinals last year. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 25th best linebacker in the league last season, following three straight years of declining statistics.
Minter is a thick, three-down inside linebacker. He is better in coverage over the middle than playing in run support, but he has the ability to help. Along with Vontaze Burfict and Vincent Rey, he gives the Bengals three of Pro Football Focus’ top 25 linebackers last season. That trio should combine to give the Bengals a position group that other teams will envy.
#3. Re-signing Dre Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick is not quite an elite cornerback, but he has the length and athleticism to play against opposing No. 1 receivers.
His career has been up and down through five seasons, but Kirkpatrick has broken up at least 10 passes in each of the last two seasons and notched three picks last year. Perhaps most crucially, he is just coming into his prime at 27-years-old and should only get better for a few more years.
The worst: Drafting Joe Mixon
Mixon may have been the most talented running back in the 2017 draft class, but his troubled personal history took him off most draft boards. On the field, he is a true superstar running back. Off the field, he is simply not employable. The video showing him punch a woman at a restaurant immediately knocked him off most team’s draft boards.
Mixon's behavior is only part of what makes this a bad selection; the Bengals already have a pair of quality running backs that pair together well. Jeremy Hill is a powerful between-the-tackles runner and Giovani Bernard is a multi-purpose guy that can catch the ball and pass protect.
If Mixon keeps his nose clean and can put the 2014 incident behind him, the Bengals could have one of the best running back trios in the league. That sounds good, but running backs aren't a team's most important position group and Mixon simply isn’t worth the constant questions about how he is doing and fitting in.