Let me start off by saying I never thought I would have to write this article after the first week of free agency. If you are a Bengals fan you already know why. You got it, because the Bengals rarely do anything in the first week of free agency. Let us now take a look at each signing in no particular order.
Mackensie Alexander, CB
This is an easy, low-cost addition for the Bengals, who will reunite Alexander with former Vikings corner Trae Waynes, who we will look at in a minute. The additions would seem to point out how the Bengals have missed big-time over the last half dozen years trying to draft Cornerbacks and now they can cut some busts loose. Look at Cincinnati to either cut Dre Kirkpatrick or trade William Jackson, with the former far more likely.
Alexander has struggled to stay healthy at times, but he has been an above-average slot cornerback when on the field for Minnesota. He should continue in that role for the Bengals in 2020. Expect William Jackson to start at one corner spot and Waynes at the other, with Alexander covering the slot. Alexander is a definite upgrade over what the Bengals had last year. Grade B-
Trae Waynes, CB
Let’s get this straight from the outset, Waynes has been an under-achiever, but I do think he is an improvement over Kirkpatrick and Dennard. He still has a nice skill set which the Bengals coaches can help develop. I like that Waynes and Alexander have played in the same defensive backfield, but Waynes is not an all-pro cornerback. He is an improvement, however. Grade C+
D.J. Reader, DT
Nose tackles typically don’t get the type of deal that Reader got, but he had his best season last year, racking up 2.5 sacks, 13 knockdowns and 6 tackles for loss. He has stayed relatively healthy, missing only three games in four seasons, and he is a logical option to line up alongside undersized penetrating tackle Geno Atkins on the interior. The Bengals have had an atrocious run defense the past few years and Reader should make them better immediately. I think they probably paid too much for him, but my guess is they had to as a lot of teams were interested in him. Grade B
Xavier Su’a-Filo, G
Su’a-Filo should be expected to compete for one of the starting guard positions next year. Hopefully, he will be good enough to keep Michael B. Jordan off the field because Jordan has been terrible so far in his career. Su’a-Filo comes to Cincinnati with six years of experience under his belt. During a career that includes stops in Houston and Dallas, he has made 53 starts. Grade C+
A.J. Green, WR
Green was tagged. I am a big fan of this, yet at the same time I am not. At least it’s a one-year deal and they don’t get stuck if Green’s injury issues continue. If he is the old A.J. Green this was a great move but only time will tell. Grade B
I am thrilled they did something, but the question now is how much will these moves help? DJ Reader is a big upgrade, my only real worry is that if he doesn’t work out maybe the Bengals will back off the aggressiveness in free agency? The two corners from Minnesota are a slight improvement, Filo has to be better than Jordan, and Green, if he stays healthy, is a nice signing. Overall the Bengals got better, I am not blown away but I am surprised, for now, let’s call it a B and see what happens? Grade B