There is increasing internal discussion in front offices around the NFL about the state of the Cincinnati Bengals and the potential for possible trades ahead of this month's deadline. Conversations with eight general managers this week revealed a landscape where competitive teams are eager to get a crack at a bevy of Bengals veterans, but with skepticism about whether the team will actually made trades.
Owner Mike Brown is decidedly old-school, and this franchise has by and large not been involved with the more recent trend of significant trades going on around the league in recent years (Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham, Jr., to name a few). However, some GMs I spoke to believe it's possible the Bengals move a few players and they will be fielding calls for a core of key players in the coming weeks, sources said, with receiver A.J. Green the primary target.
The Bengals, 0-4 and getting overwhelmed most weeks, have a rookie head coach who is going to need time to turn the franchise around and, as a franchise that has not often been among the highest-spending in the NFL, some GMs believe it is at least possible they are open to moving salaries of players who will not be on the Bengals' roster by the time the franchise (6-14 in its last 20 games) does turn around. They have the most overt trade options ahead of the Week 9 deadline -- though again, doubts remains as to whether they will embrace it.
"We've gone over the roster and the contracts," another GM said. "It is begging for trades, but I'm not sure they'll seriously consider it. That's not how Mike Brown operates."
Rival general managers I spoke to agreed that the Bengals could get a first-round pick for Green, 31, if the acquiring team was able to negotiate a new deal for him and if Green returns from his foot injury soon. It is highly unlikely that Green signs an extension with the Bengals, I'm told. League sources said the Saints and Patriots are among the teams most deeply looking for pass catching help, and both would have interest in oft-injured tight end Tyler Eifert as well, who is making just $1 million this season.
Elite defensive tackle Geno Atkins, 31, is coveted and has a very team-friendly deal, signed through 2022 with the guaranteed money already paid out. Carlos Dunlap, 30, is signed through 2020, makes just $3.1 million this season and has caught the attention of a slew of general managers desperate to upgrade their pass rush. If tackle Cordy Glenn is healthy they Bengals might be able to move that $7.2 million contract to a contender in need, with offensive line such an issue around the league. Teams are wondering if the Bengals will sign corner William Jackson to a big extension in 2020 after already paying big for Dre Kirkpatrick, and intend to inquire about them as well, sources said.
And Andy Dalton, who is signed through 2020 ($17.5 million next season) has long been viewed as a potential trade chip by other front offices, though any movement there is more likely after the season, given the complexities of the quarterback position and the nuance of systems and schemes.
By trading Green, Atkins and Dunlap, the small-market team with sagging attendance could save roughly $13 million alone in the second half of the season. History would indicate this would be an unusual step for the Bengals, but they will also have more inquiries and opportunities than ever before the reshape the team for the future on the fly.