Sapp, Vincent spurn Cincinnati

The Bengals came up 0-for-3 in signing the players they thought would best lead them to the postseason.

Updated: March 22, 2004, 11:17 AM ET
By By Darrell Trimble | NFL Insider
Last offseason the Cincinnati Bengals were considered one of the worst franchises in professional sports. Players often used the Bengals as a negotiating tool, feigning interest in signing with Cincinnati only to drive up their market value and sign with someone else. But that all began to change when Marvin Lewis was named the new head coach.

Owner Mike Brown, who was criticized for being frugal, gave Lewis more power than any other coach he had ever hired. Almost overnight the Bengals became a more respected organization, and that was reflected by their success in free agency.

The Bengals started off slowly, signing only one unrestricted player in the first week of free agency, defensive lineman Carl Powell. But they used the money they saved by losing Takeo Spikes and added linebacker Kevin Hardy, defensive tackle John Thornton and cornerback Tory James. James actually chose to sign with Cincinnati over Minnesota for similar money.