The Bengals incurred some scorn around the league a year ago from rival executives for essentially sitting out the trade deadline despite pursuits for several of their veteran players during what would be a 2-14 season. And while there is still some pessimism that the rebuilding franchise will truly embrace the opportunity to make significant changes at the deadline next week, rival executives are very aware of a growing core of disgruntled veterans who badly want out, leading to a sense that a trade or two is possible.
Executives from multiple teams who have sent out feelers to the Bengals are detecting a vibe that is not quite as trade-averse as it was a year ago.
"I think they are more open to it, yeah," one general manager said. "I'm just not sure how realistic they're going to be about the value of these players. We'll see. I know they're getting calls and there a bunch of players who want out of there ASAP."
"Who knows, man?" another executive said. "Every time we talk to them it feels like a waste of time because they can't pull the trigger."
Former star defensive linemen Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins have made it clear they want to be dealt by the deadline, league sources said, and there is a very strong perception among personnel men around the NFL that former star receiver A.J. Green and top cornerback William Jackson would be very open to a change of scenery. Green's salary on the franchise tag, steep injury history and lack of performance this season make a trade very difficult, with owner Mike Brown not one to eat salary in order to facilitate a trade. Receiver John Ross, a former first-round bust, also wants out but wouldn't fetch much in a trade.
With a young coaching staff building around promising rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, some of the executives who have contacted the Bengals believe they are open to moving Dunlap or Atkins in particular, concerned about their impact in the locker room with so many young, impressionable players integrated into the team this year. However, teams interested in those players are not inclined to give up much for them, I'm told, viewing them as salary dumps of sorts with concerns about their recent production.
Regardless, where a year ago it seemed like an impossibility the Bengals would move anyone, there is at least some chance of a meaningful transaction next week.