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No Team Is The Next Bengals

The AFC has turned into a murderer’s row during the 2022 off-season. After the Cincinnati Bengals went from a four-win team to punching a Super Bowl ticket the following season, the media and fans of other teams have attributed different things to Cincinnati’s meteoric rise. Watching the “lowly Bengals” ascend to an NFL powerhouse has everyone believing they can be the next Bengals.

I will be covering why no one else is building a roster the same way as Cincinnati and why all the analysis of “X team is going to be the next Bengals” is wrong.

The Bengals Success Didn’t Happen In One season

The way you hear everyone talk about Cincinnati’s 2020 season and 2021 season, you’d think the roster was crafted in a single year. That isn’t the case. The current roster started being put together when Zac Taylor entered the fold in 2019.

Zac Taylor and his coordinators, Lou Anarumo and Brian Callahan, came into the Bengals organization with a vision of the team they wanted to construct. They brought in players to fit their schemes and dismantled the previous era’s roster. 2021 was simply when the core of the roster was finished. Any team that hits the reset button on their coaching staff isn’t following the same script for 2022.

The Bengals Primarily Built Their Roster Through The Draft

One of the reasons why the roster works is because it’s been primarily built through the draft. The nucleus of the roster is on their rookie contracts meaning their cost is very low. The NFL’s top five wide receiver contracts vary between $25M to $30M a year. The Bengals are paying less than $20M total for Chase, Higgins, and Boyd in 2022. This young Bengals nucleus allows for far more talent to be gathered than they would be able to gain through other means.

The Bengals Have Targeted “2nd Tier Free Agents”

Free agency is where a player goes to get paid. They start a bidding war and maximize their contracts. Unlike the narratives would have you believe, the Bengals have not been cheap in free agency since bringing Zac Taylor onboard. However, they have not overpaid for talent but instead found talent that was undervalued in the market.

Here is a chart for players with the most sacks over the last two seasons, from statmuse.

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Here are the top 10 highest paid EDGE rushers (some of the players listed above are IDL, but the point is still valid)

<img class="lazyload" decoding="async" src=";ssl=1" alt="" data-recalc-dims="1" />

Trey Hendrickson, number 3 on the sack list, isn’t on the top 10 list in pay. In fact, he will earn just over $14 million in 2022. Cincinnati has built through the draft, but when they have rounded out their roster in Free Agency, it’s been on cost-effective players that have over-performed, such as Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie, DJ Reader, Mike Hilton, La’el Collins, and Alex Cappa.

Teams making big splashy free agency signings and blockbuster trades are not following the Bengals’ path to success.

Burrow And Chase Are Generational Talents

Even if a team were to replicate the Bengals’ game plan for success, their results would most likely not be the same. Cincinnati, in hindsight, was fortunate to be drafting in the top 5 of the 2020 and 2021 drafts to acquire both a generational QB and a generation WR.

Cincy’s plans to build a roster could have still been a success without Burrow and Chase, but without a doubt, this iconic duo elevated the Bengals to a higher level. Sometimes luck is a part of the skill, and when it comes to the Bengals, they certainly benefited from the right time and the right place.

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