Cincinnati Bengals 2015 Roster Needs
The Cincinnati Bengals ended their season in disappointment for the fourth year in a row. Injuries and depth played the main factor in the early exit and even in a few losses this season. The Bengals will need to address both immediate and depth needs going into this years free agency and draft, but who and what should be their focus is the real question.
Nov 29, 2014; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver Kai De La Cruz (12) catches a pass under the pressure of Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Alvin Dupree (2) during the second half at Papa John
Defensive end wasn’t expected to be a need for the Bengals when Michael Johnson left, but alas, it is. Alvin Dupree is a great option that has potential to drop to the Bengals in the draft. He is a red-shirt senior out of the University of Kentucky, and the Bengals and its fans have had a front row seat to his performance in the SEC. Arik Armstead could also become an interesting prospect out Oregon. His combination of size (6’7″, 296 pounds) and quickness was on full display in the National Championship game; he finished with nine tackles. Armstead showed major upside in that game and his acquisition could help replace what the Bengals lost when Michael Johnson left.
Many people know I am a huge supporter of the Bengals taking a chance on Brian Orakpo. When healthy, he can be a better version of Vincent Rey in many ways, but Orakpo’s health is hardly assured as he’s suffered injuries in two of the past three years. Outside linebacker is going to be a key emphasis heading into next season and getting Vontaze Burfict back is going to be another. But having depth and another pass rusher, like Dupree and Orakpo, could boost this defense back to its past top five form.
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The Bengals’ offensive line had holes, but re-signing Clint Boling should be a priority this off-season. His rookie contract has run its course and he’s been effective when blocking for Andy Dalton. He’s helped and will continue to help Russell Bodine fit into the Bengals’ offensive line, he knows Dalton’s tendencies, he understands how to block for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and best of all he’s well-versed in Hue Jackson’s playbook. Offensively, he should be priority number one, as pointed out by our own David Petrocelli.
He is not due to hit the open market for another year, but A.J. Green needs a contract and after suffering several injuries in 2014, he might take a little less. I know it won’t be millions less, but a little savings on the cap can go a long way for this organization. If they allow Green to hit the open market, they will not be able to afford him with high cap space teams licking their chops for a top receiver.
Surprisingly, tight end will be another point of emphasis with Jermaine Gresham and Alex Smith hitting the market. Many argue that they should not re-sign Gresham due to his inconsistencies, but he was, at times this season, one of Andy Dalton’s most effective weapons. The Bengals will get Tyler Eifert back next season, and that will be a huge lift, but the combination of experience and skill that Gresham and Eifert bring to the table will be hard to replace.
Kicker Mike Nugent is scheduled to hit the free agent market come March. He struggled early, and as I wrote early on, it was tough to watch him in the early stages of the season. After he missed the game-winner against the Carolina Panthers, he found another gear going 15 for 16 in the 11 remaining regular season games. He contributed 117 of the 365 points scored by the team during this stretch. Those numbers should prove he earned another year or at least a job somewhere next season.
The Bengals must find a way to solidify their team if they expect to compete in a division as solid as the AFC North. They will have to do the one thing Mike Brown has cringed at historically (though according to Marvin Lewis, Brown is approaching free agency differently this year), they must spend money. If they can get their defense back to its top five form and simultaneously sure up the offensive line, the Bengals could make the playoffs five years in a row and maybe even take back the AFC North crown.