The Bengals coach got defensive Sunday when talking about what Cincinnati has done in the free-agent market so far. While the Bengals signed several of their own players before free agency opened Tuesday, they have signed only one player — also one of their own — since.
Lewis said the team has looked at several players and “decided to pass,” according to Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer, but he saved his best comments for another angle of the discussion. In what appeared to be a response to a Sunday column by Enquirer writer Paul Daugherty that called Lewis to go out and sign splashier free agents, Lewis took some swipes at a few wide receiver graybeards.
“[Bengals receiver] Mo Sanu [is] way ahead of where one certain receiver [Chad Johnson] was in his second year playing in the National Football League,” Lewis said, according to Reedy. “I’ll go on record saying that.”
Having finished with Johnson, Lewis moved on to another receiver — one who played all the way until the Super Bowl last year.
“That’s the uneducated putting dumb thoughts in people’s minds,” Lewis said. “It’s why you have an opportunity to go after these guys and go get these guys. So you continue to make your team better. You are not a positive in making your team better when you keep adding old guys.
“What did Randy Moss do for those guys last year? He did nothing. He got in the way of a young player performing.”
Moss, for the record, was widely credited last season with helping the San Francisco 49ers’ young players develop while he did the dirty work as the team went to the Super Bowl. He got more playing time only at the end of the season, after the 49ers needed some depth in the receiving corps due to injuries.
Lewis may have a point about Johnson, though. Johnson was considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL when he played with Lewis and the Bengals. In his 10 seasons in Cincinnati, he had seven 1,000-yard seasons (including 1,166 in that second year that Lewis referenced), 10,783 total yards and 66 touchdowns. Johnson’s reputation as a receiving great took a considerable hit, however, when he was signed by New England and failed to find his way into the Patriots’ game plan after he reportedly couldn’t understand the playbook.
Lewis may have good reason to stick to his guns and develop from within, if Johnson and 36-year-old Moss are the best options out there. But chances are those weren’t the splashes that Bengals fans were looking for, anyway.