NFL teams are largely judged in the offseason by the actions they commit, not the ones they don’t. Take the Cincinnati Bengals for example.
Their free agency was highlighted by the signing of Orlando Brown Jr., and a defensive-centric NFL Draft class put a bow on another productive Spring for the club.
The Bengals could’ve also traded offensive tackle Jonah Williams, presumably for a draft pick or two, but decided against it. That inaction looks like it will be paying dividends when the pads come on. Pro Football Focus graded recently graded every NFL team’s offseason, and the Bengals were one of six to get an A.
The Brown signing and the draft were obvious factors into the grade, but their decision to hold onto Williams instead of shipping him off for an unknown price was the cherry on top for analyst Sam Monson.
“The steadfast refusal to even blink when Jonah Williams was like, ‘Oh, you’ve given my left ankle spot away? Well, I want to trade.’ And they just went, ‘That sweet, talk to you later.”
And just did nothing,” Monson said of the Bengals tactical inaction. “I don’t think he’s going to be sitting out because the guy needs to play this year to fix the season that he had previously… So simply not blinking when a guy came to them and said ‘I want out, you’ve given away my starting spot,’ potentially gives them the right tackle they need this year.
“I think that that ends up being a kind of sneaky under the radar, again, not even a move,” Monson continued. “Just a smart approach to the offseason that they’ve had so overall this is one of the better off seasons in the NFL.”
Williams’ future with the Bengals really was up in the air between his trade request and the NFL Draft. Cincinnati had offers for their first-round pick from the 2019 draft.
Taking one of them would’ve required to replace him as the likely starter at right tackle for the 2023 season. Holding on to the fifth-year player keeps a valuable option at a position that has given the Bengals plenty of headaches in recent years.
If he plays at his usual level, Williams will be the best right tackle the Bengals have had in some time. But there is an obstacle in his way.
On top of making the transition back to the position several years after playing it in college, Williams is still rehabbing his dislocated knee he suffered during the playoffs.
He’s expected to be ready for training camp, but he’s already been missing out on reps during the first two phases of the Bengals’ offseason workouts. Williams may or may not pan out at the position this year before he enters free agency for the first time in 10 months. The chance he does make a clean transition was too great for the Bengals moving on from him before necessary, and solidified one of the best offseasons in the NFL this year.