As the clock wound down on the NFL trading deadline, the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) are more focused on bringing home a treat from their Thursday night Halloween meeting with the Miami Dolphins (3-4) at Sun Life Stadium heading into the Bye week. While the team sits atop the AFC North with good traction, the defense is beaten up from the first half of the season and is thin in many positions. But did the Bengals need to make a move, and were any of them worthwhile? Here’s the list:
Injuries -Leon Hall (Achilles), out for season
Taylor Mays (shoulder), unknown
The secondary has been scrapped together for a good portion of the season, and with the loss of veteran Hall, there could have been reason for another veteran to be brought in. During September, most of the Bengals’ secondary was in and out of the training room with Hall dealing with a hamstring injury, Adam Jones abdominal, Brandon Ghee out for a month with concussion protocol, and Dre Kirkpatrick with a hamstring injury. The Bengals went with their go-to free agent Chris Crocker who was signed almost the same day in 2012 for the remainder of the season.
After Hall tore his Achilles, there was concern but Crocker has stepped up and played extremely well. Besides that, the time has presented itself for former first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick to contribute.Kirkpatrick has been on and off with injuries and could still be considered a rookie in terms of on-field experience.
During the preseason, concern presented itself when Kirkpatrick was abused by Dallas receiver Dez Bryant by giving up a touchdown, nine receptions, and committing two pass interference penalties. Against Detroit in Week 7, Kirkpatrick gave up a touchdown reception to Calvin Johnson but his coverage was good and Calvin Johnson is God’s gift to the NFL. Besides those two instances (one really), Kirkpatrick has been solid in his limited playing time.
The Bengals also have veteran Terence Newman who some thought could be backup to Kirkpatrick but Newman has started every game and has played very well with 32 tackles and one interception.
Taylor Mays will return soon and since George Iloka has taken a majority of the snaps opposite Reggie Nelson, Mays’ absence isn’t as noticeable as Hall’s.
Other than the Bengals being able to fill the voids in the secondary, there were next to no options as far as teams looking to shop any player of note. Even if the options were there, the Bengals have young, cheap talent to fill the positions or a few veterans like Crocker who are signed to a short-term contract that wouldn’t warrant a big trade with a player like safety Jairus Bryd from Buffalo who was rumored to be tradable.
Injuries – Rey Maualuga (concussion, knee sprain), 3-4 weeks
Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder), IR
Sean Porter (shoulder), IR
The Bengals have played without Lamur and Porter for the entire season and neither player was slated to be a starter or huge contributor, but both would have been backups for the team. Maualuga’s absence for the next few weeks, coupled with the injuries to backups, stretches the Bengals thin at linebacker.
However, the result could be rewarding for Bengals’ fans as they might see extended playing time for James Harrison who has seen sporadic playing time while being excluded from nickel packages. Vontaze Burfict now leads the NFL in tackles with 85 and is a huge part of the Bengals’ defense. With Maualuga out, Burfict could slide to the middle and a committee role at the weakside can be given to Michael Boley and Vincent Rey.
The shopping cart for linebackers was almost as empty as the secondary with no huge playmakers of note. With the return of Maualuga in a few weeks – one of which is the bye – the Bengals can make due in the meantime.
Injuries – Devon Still (Elbow), week-to-week
Wallace Gilberry (Groin), LP
Robert Geathers (Elbow), IR
Larry Black (Ankle), IR
When Robert Geathers went down with an elbow injury against Pittsburgh in Week 2, Bengals’ fans were grateful that the team had loads of depth on the line. When Michael Johnson suffered a concussion after the Week 4 loss to the Browns, the Bengals suddenly got thin on the defensive line. Wallace Gilberry was able to take over in Johnson’s place and excelled during his absence, recording 3.0 sacks.
With Johnson back to form and Carlos Dunlap displaying why the Bengals gave him a contract extension this year, the team can survive with some cuts and bruises. If anything were to happen, the team still has rookie, second-round pick Margus Hunt to fill the void.
The only defensive lineman on the trading block was Minnesota Vikings’ veteran DE Jared Allen. The Bengals are deep enough on the line and the $14-million contract that Allen has is way beyond what the Bengals would be willing to spend.
And the main reason why the Bengals didn’t make a trade: first place in the AFC North with a three-game lead and a top-ten ranked defense – and now offense – that wouldn’t warrant a trade.
And apparently the Bengals weren’t the only team that didn’t give the often-overlooked trade deadline a glance. Only the New England Patriots made a deal with the Eagles for Isaac Sopoaga and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fifth-round pick. Sopoaga is expected to take over for Patriots’ veteran Vince Wilfork who is out with an injury.