The Bengals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, but coach Marvin Lewis has indicated he feels the team is not in need of a total reboot.
Here are five reasons he’s right:
1. With the ninth pick in the draft, they should get an impact player.
The Bengals haven’t gotten a lot out of the draft in the past couple of years, in part because of injuries but also because they haven’t picked in the top half of the first round since grabbing A.J. Green with the fourth pick in 2011.
2. Although the team has 15 free agents, only about a third are likely to be considered priorities to re-sign.
Seven year-end starters have contracts that are up – Andrew Whitworth, T.J. Johnson (restricted), Kevin Zeitler, Brandon LaFell, Domata Peko, Karlos Dansby and Dre Kirkpatrick – and there are young players potentially ready to take every one of their spots.
That should them some piece of mind and make it easier for the team to find the money to keep stalwarts Whitworth and Zeitler while deciding how much they want to invest in Kirkpatrick and Johnson.
3. They know what they have at quarterback, receiver, defensive line and head coach.
Those are some of, if not the, most crucial elements for success in today’s NFL, so that’s a nice set of cornerstones for a management group that not long ago had put together one of the deepest rosters in the league before natural attrition began to take its toll last offseason.
No team stays the same every year, but stability is essential in the NFL.
Of course not everyone will agree with the quality of those pieces, but we’ll discuss that tomorrow.
4. Many answers might already be on the roster.
In Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, Nick Vigil, P.J. Dawson, Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson III and KeiVarae Russell, the Bengals have a bunch of players who were high draft picks who haven’t blossomed yet nor played enough to conclude that won’t happen.
It’s not too much to expect them all to at least round into reliable players while hoping some of them still turn into stars.
5. The schedule should soften.
When you get to the playoffs, they don’t ask how as much as how many: All those wins count the same (unless tiebreakers come into play) in the standings at the end of the year.
Playing a third-place schedule should prove to be easier than the first-place docket of 2016 (bye-bye, Patriots and Cowboys).
Of course this all could be pie-in-the-sky thinking, so pessimists stay tuned. Next we’ll look at the flip side of this debate.