This year did not end the way Bengals’ fans wanted. No one wanted the most guy wrenching, tear jerking, controversial ending to a season that you could get. But, it happened. The season is over. Now we look to next year. The biggest question is: Who will make up the Bengals roster?
The Bengals have a whopping 15 free agents, and it’s very unlikely that all of them will be signed. What’s more, is there are a lot of starters in free agency – including the entire secondary and #2 and #3 receivers. So, what do the Bengals do? Is this time to rebuild? Of course we’re not blowing up the entire team, but there’s a lot of money at stake with these free agents and the Bengals have an estimated $30 million in cap space. There’s some positions that we need to keep intact, others we keep key pieces, and others it’s time to find a new solution.
The Bengals secondary. This Bengal secondary has been the lifeblood of not only the defense, but the team in general. Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Adam Jones, and Leon Hall are all free agents and were all huge contributors this past season. I think Iloka is a no-brainer to sign, even if he has been battling injuries, he’s a difference maker when he’s on the field. Nelson, Jones, and Hall are all battling Father Time. If the Bengals can negotiate team friendly contracts with these 3, they would be huge contributors and leaders again in 2016.
Keep key pieces
The receiving core. It’s time to move on from Mohammad Sanu and Brandon Tate. They’ve each had moments in their years with the Bengals, but both lack consistency. Marvin Jones is a great compliment to AJ Green and I think a necessity to this team. In 2016, it’s time to see what Mario Alford can offer this team as a return man and #3 receiver.
Time to find a new solution
The offensive line and linebackers. Andre Smith has been a very solid right tackle for this team. Unfortunately, I think that means he’s going to ask for a large sum of money. The Bengals have obviously been searching for life after Smith and Andrew Whitworth by investing 2 early picks in the tackle position in the draft last year. I think in 2016 we will see Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi transition into their respected more and solidify themselves as the future of this Bengals line.
Emmanuel Lamur, Chris Carter, and Vinney Rey were all solid in 2015, but lack big play ability. It’s time for another 2015 draft pick, PJ Dawson, to join Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict on the field. I think that trio has the potential to be one of the best in 2016.
There’s obviously other bits and pieces in the Bengals free agency, most notably Wallace Gilberry (who’d I’d love to see back in stripes in 2016) but as far as positions on the team, this is where the focus needs to be. It should be an interesting offseason for the Bengals! Stay tuned!