May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
When you read the headline of this article, you must be thinking: “Anish, why are we worrying about 2016? We haven’t even begun to start 2015 training camp.” This is a great question, which we can always expect from our Stripe Hype readers.
The truth can be boiled down to a simple statement: no matter what happens in 2015, there are going to be several changes with the Cincinnati Bengals in the coming year. Coley Harvey of ESPN recently listed the impending Bengals free agents. The Bengals can take on only so much in salary. So from Harvey’s list, who will stay and who will go?
Players Who Will Stay in Cincinnati in 2016
May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) looks on during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Despite his soon to be expensive price tag, Green is a must-have for this team to be considered a contender in the future. Green is widely regarded as a top five receiver and his production has been increasing every single year. Last year, he was unable to play in three regular season games as well as the playoff game, thus negatively affecting his statistics. The Bengals will hem and haw in paying so much to one player (he will make $10.2 million this year), but ultimately will pay him.
The second receiver for the Bengals is back and practicing at OTA’s. His 2014 season was wash due to injury, yet we cannot deny his 2013 season production. His yardage wasn’t extremely impressive, but his red zone prowess became the talk of the town a couple of seasons ago. I do believe he will recreate that success in 2015 and will hopefully re-sign at a cheaper price tag considering he is coming back from injury.
In an article written a few weeks back, I made a case for the Bengals captain to be moved to the guard position in 2016 season. He will be 34 years old after this season, and with the drafting of Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi, Whitworth does not need to play tackle after this year.
Whitworth’s importance in the locker room cannot be quantified in stats, and I believe he will be brought back next year while Clint Boling subsequantly moves to center, Russell Bodine rides the bench, and Andre Smith is allowed to explore free agency.
When various injuries struck linebackers Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur, Vincent Rey became a starter out of necessity. Last year, he led the Bengals in total tackles with 133. Even when assuming Burfict comes back healthy and productive, I believe Rey is a linchpin in our defense. He has proven to be a sure tackler and covers pass plays better than Maualuga.
My hope for the team is Paul Dawson, the Bengals third round pick this year, becomes a force, and Burfict is healthy, which forces Maualuga out of the starting lineup.
Most readers would agree with the list above. The one surprise would be my affection for Wallace Gilberry. Yes, he only had 1.5 sacks last year, but in 2013-2014, he had 7.5 sacks. Why the sudden drop off for Gilberry? Without Michael Johnson starting opposite of Carlos Dunlap, Gilberry was pressed into a starting role. In 2013-2014, he was a rotational player who normally came in to pressure quarterbacks on third down.
With Johnson back in the fold, as well as the development of Will Clarke, Gilberry can go back to his natural rotational spot. I think Gilberry is primed for a huge year for the Bengals, who desperately need a sustained pass rush.
Next: Two Players Who Will Not Be with the Bengals in 2016