A.J. Green will be the main focus for Cincinnati when it comes time for contract extensions.
The Cincinnati Bengals have spent the first part of free agency focused on re-signing their own key players. Some fans have shown frustration over the lack of spending on the free-agent market, but the Bengals have a very solid plan in place.
Instead of signing big-name players in free agency, they have stuck with their own core group with specific plans for the team's money in mind.
Being frugal in free agency has allowed the Bengals to roll over $10 million of cap room from 2013 into next season. What that accomplishes for the team is allowing for the extensions of marquee players such as A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Andy Dalton and Jermaine Gresham next season.
This feeds into the Bengals mantra of developing their own young players and keeping the core of the team intact. The Bengals feel that this is the best way to win in the NFL—build a team through the draft instead of free agency.
One only needs to look as far as the AFC North to know that this is a very solid theory. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have practiced this same strategy and it has paid off in Super Bowl victories for both teams.
Troy Blackburn, one of the club's contract negotiators, had this to say about the team's plan as it relates to other AFC North teams (via Bengals.com).
If you look at teams that have sustained high-end success, they have done that by investing in their own players that were creating positive results on Sunday. The most recent example would be Baltimore.
If you look at where they invest, their heaviest investments are all in their own guys. I just picked them because they won the Super Bowl this year. Pittsburgh has historically done that. The reason we're pursuing the path we're pursuing is because it has the highest chance of high-end success.
The Bengals have tried to make it work by bringing in high-priced veterans in the past with little success. Some of the larger signings by this team have been wide receivers Antonio Bryant, Terrell Owens and Laveranues Coles. Also brought in was expensive free-agent defensive end Antwan Odom.
None of these acquisitions panned out for the team and ended up costing the franchise in the long run. By focusing on the talent that currently exists on the roster and helped this team attain back to back playoff berths for the first time in three decades, the Bengals finally seem to have the right plan in place.
According to Spotrac.com, the Bengals still have $30.8 million left in cap space for 2013. This will be plenty to take care of any remaining signings—possibly Andre Smith and Terence Newman—and have plenty left over for their acquisitions in the draft and the rollover for 2014.
What grade would you give the Bengals front office thus far in the 2013 offseason?
Green and Atkins especially will demand high-priced deals when the time for extensions begin. A team that is not wise with money would generally have a difficult time extending two players with such high price tags. However, the Bengals have done their due diligence and are well prepared for the upcoming negotiations.
The front office is very confident that they will be able to keep the young talent of this team intact for the long haul. Even though 2013 free agency has been quiet for the Bengals, the front office should be applauded for the long-term plans of this franchise.
It seems that the Bengals are finally dedicated to sustaining long-term success and are adamant to bring a championship to Cincinnati.