As the off-season wears on, the Cincinnati Bengals are getting closer to the times when they can fix some of the holes on their roster. Here, we rank each position group in order of how badly they need to be addressed.
The Cincinnati Bengal’s have plenty of ammunition to give their roster a huge boost this off-season. With the number one overall pick locked down, plenty of cap space, and players that can garner attention on the trade market, the possibilities are endless.
However, the team can’t give every position group on the roster a total make-over. It’s important the front office assigns priority to the groups that could use the most help, allowing them to focus their resources in those areas. With that, here are the units the Bengals should focus on in order.
If the Bengals are working under the assumption that Andy Dalton is no longer their franchise quarterback, which it’s safe to conclude that they are, then quarterback is the number one need this off-season. Thankfully, this draft class offers arguably the best quarterback prospect, Joe Burrow, to come out of the college ranks since Andrew Luck.
The city of Cincinnati is well aware of the problems their hometown team has faced in fielding capable linebackers for the past several seasons. New linebackers coach Al Golden has one reliable player returning next year in Germaine Pratt but beyond that, not much else is guaranteed. There are plenty of options both on the free-agent market and in the draft. The Bengals would be wise to attack the position group through both avenues.
3. Offensive Line
For many, it’s a toss-up between which unit, the linebackers or the offensive line, needs the most attention. Since the big men up front started playing much better down the stretch of the season, the need to address the offensive trenches gets a bump in priority.
Offensive line coach Jim Turner can safely rely on two players, Jonah Williams and Trey Hopkins to fill starting spots on opening day. In addition, the team likes what they have in guys like Michael Jordan and Fred Johnson. Still, it’s too early to tell if they’ll be able to handle a full-time role next season. It would be wise to sign one of the affordable veteran guards on the market this off-season, as well as take advantage of the deep offensive tackle class eligible for this year’s draft.
4. Defensive Tackle
Games are won and lost in the trenches. The Cincinnati Bengal’s have had dominant play along the defensive front in large part thanks to superstar Geno Atkins. However, with him entering the latter stages of his career, the team should look to give him a suitable running mate that he can mentor to be the next in line. Andrew Billings has played well at the nose tackle spot but isn’t guaranteed to return, as he is a free agent. Josh Tupou looks to be a solid player in rotational duties as well. Still, a full-time starter who can play all three downs needs to be found sooner rather than later to help the team shore up their sub-par run defense.
Carlos Dunlap certainly didn’t play like he was on the wrong side of 30 this season and he has been the model of consistency over his career. The team seems to have found a solid starter for the foreseeable future in Sam Hubbard as well. Fans have to be encouraged that Carl Lawson can come in and win such a high percentage of his pass rush reps. The trio gives the Bengals a group of high motor, high energy guys that set the tone for them upfront.
In addition, Andrew Brown looked great in his limited playing time. Franchises can always use more edge rushers, though. The defense plays much better, generates significantly more turnovers, and masks other deficiencies with a strong pass rush. The importance of the position causes the need to be more highly prioritized.
6. Wide Receiver
The Bengals are loaded with talent at the wide receiver position. Problems begin to arise in relation to A.J. Green’s uncertain future as well as health concerns among the unit. If Green avoids the franchise tag and can remain healthy, the need for another receiver decreases significantly. That’s a big if though. John Ross offers the potential to be a star but has major injury concerns. Auden Tate and Tyler Boyd are great but the team will need more additional firepower to help their next young quarterback. The historical wide receiver class also means the front office can find solid receivers later in the draft, making things less urgent.
William Jackson, despite having some undesirable moments last season, is a star corner and offers a solid foundation for the position. If the front office can work out a deal with Darqueze Dennard as well, then they have some serious talent in the room. It’s fair to assume they’ll bring him back considering how much they value the position. Darius Phillips began to surge as the season came to a close and brings plenty of potential.
However, rumors have swirled that long-time favorite Dre Kirkpatrick may be dawning a new uniform next season. If that’s the case, the team needs to be sure they have as many starting-caliber players as possible. This is mostly due to the fact that offenses around the league have forced defenses to play in nickel more frequently.
Jessie Bates began the 2019 season in a bit of a sophomore slump but down the stretch showed why he has so many believing in his star potential. Shawn Williams is a solid player and leader, both on the field and in the locker room. The backups, speedster Brandon Wilson and Clayton Fejedelem, play huge roles in special teams. In addition, they’ve proven at times they can fill in well in the event of an injury. If the opportunity arises to make an upgrade, the Bengals should take it but it’s not a dire need.
9. Tight End
C.J. Uzomah is a solid player and can make big plays down the seam or on a screen. Tyler Eifert played his first full season in quite some time and showed some flashes of his former self, although there is no guarantee he returns in free agency. There is hope that highly drafted Drew Sample can return from injury and take a step in his development as well.
Still, this is a sneakily good draft class for tight ends. Despite Zac Taylor using tight ends less than fans are accustomed to, if a player presents himself at the correct spot, the Bengals shouldn’t flinch to bolster the unit.
The Bengals boast one of the games best out of the backfield in Joe Mixon. Behind him, they have solid veteran Gio Bernard. In addition, Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson showed flashes last pre-season that should have coaches excited to see what their future holds.
Mixon is set to become a free agent after next season and there is some worry his asking price may be outside of what the front office usually spends on the position. Still, recent history indicates that solid starting running backs can easily be found at all points in the draft. This should drop the unit’s priority to the last spot in the team’s eyes.
How would you rank the Bengals off-season needs?