Coming off of a disastrous end to 2015, the 2016 Cincinnati Bengals need to brace for a rough offseason. This was to be expected, at least partially. The Bengals have known that 2016 would be a pivotal year for free agents. The Bengals have known that they’d have double-digit free agents and that they would likely lose a decent chunk of those free agents. However, they did a little bit of prep work. Last season was a draft that was weighted heavily towards depth. The first two picks, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Jake Fisher were both going to be backups on the offensive line. And with the relationship likely coming to an end with Andre Smith, they’re prepared. However, you can never be entirely prepared for this type of offseason. But for the Bengals, there is something else complicating things, something that they have only themselves to blame.
The Marvin Lewis coaching tree.
That’s right. Something that is typically associated with success is soon to become a burden, an even bigger one than it already was. Former defensive guru and current Minnesota Vikings head coach, Mike Zimmer, has already been known to poach talent from the Bengals. Last season he picked up cornerback, Terence Newman, after his time in Cincinnati ended. That was one of the several moves that Zimmer made relating to former Bengals.
This season, however, is an entirely different story. Hue Jackson and Vance Joseph have since joined Zimmer and Jay Gruden as former Bengals coaches now in new cities.
Jackson left Cincy to fill the void in Cleveland as head coach, and Joseph is now the defensive coordinator in Miami. Now two offensive minds join a pair of defensive coaches in the NFL circle.
Why is this a bad thing? Well, it’s simple. These coaches were able to grow relationships with players while in Cincinnati, of course. And now they can call back on those relationships (and possibly ante up more money) to bring in former pupils. The most dangerous offensive players to hit the market will be wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. The danger is imminent on defense as the secondary, which was thin to begin with, could lose a pair of corners, Adam Jones, and Leon Hall, as well as safeties, Reggie Nelson and George Iloka; not to mention the pending loss of their two-time defending leading tackler, Vincent Rey.
The possibility that the Bengals only bring back a pair, or fewer, of those free agents is very real and equally scary proposition for the Bengals. Replacing a third string wide receiver or backup linemen is easy to do. Replacing four starters from your secondary and your second and third options at receiver is an impossible task.
How do the former Bengals coaches figure into the equation? Well, they’re all heavily rumored to be salivating over the possibility of reuniting with their former players.
The Vikings signed Newman away from Cincinnati last season, and they would love to find a similar result this season. Jones and Hall have both (as have most former Bengals defenders) expressed love for their former defensive coordinator. Fueling the fire would be the possibility of signing Vinny Rey. The Vikings are definitely a landing spot for all of those players. And if you think Zimmer isn’t going to be reaching out to the dynamic safety duo, you’re crazy.
The Dolphins are also in the market for defensive help and will likely reach out to Rey and fellow linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, another key cog in the Bengals system.
And, Jackson, the newest head coach to leave Cincinnati, would jump for joy if he could nab the pair of Bengals wide receivers. The Browns are desperate for something on the outside; they’d both fit in nicely with Jackson’s system. But could they be crazy enough to leave Cincinnati for the black hole for quarterbacks and receivers alike?
Those three teams, and possibly the Washington Redskins, will all be in constant contact with former Bengals. This enemy is about to wage war with the Queen City, and it comes from a host of former allies.