The Cincinnati Bengals are in desperate need of help at the linebacker position. Here, we detail a free agent option that seems perfect for them, Nick Kwiatkoski.
The Cincinnati Bengals linebacker room is primed to see a major overhaul this off-season. After several years of abysmal play at the position, there figure to be several new faces to bolster the unit.
Germaine Pratt will return after a promising campaign and looks to be a playmaker for years to come. Beyond him, things become more uncertain.
The linebacker class for the 2020 draft is shaping up to be solid. However, things become unpredictable when April rolls around, so it would be wise for Bengals decision-makers to address the unit through free agency.
Perhaps no better fit presents itself on the open market than that of former Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.
Kwiatkoski spent his college days playing for West Virginia before becoming a fourth-round selection in the 2016 draft. He hit the ground running, contributing right away, but had a breakout season last year after he was thrust in the starting lineup due to injuries.
After starting eight games, he accumulated 50 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, and this glowing review from Pro Football Focus,
"“He was a bright spot for the Bears defense, filling in admirably on his 512 snaps this season. He came out of college as a solid run defender who overcame a lack of great physical tools by usually being in the right place in coverage, and that’s exactly what he did this season for the Bears. Kwiatkoski finished with a solid 72.6 overall grade while making 26 defensive stops and breaking up three passes…”"
The thing that makes 26-year-old the perfect free-agent target for the Bengals is his combination of youth, strength in run defense, and the relatively cheap price tag the front office can snag him for.
The Pennsylvania native is a former high school safety with a mean streak. He loves taking on blocks in between the tackles and meeting the runner with a big hit. Those attributes will certainly help the Bengals address their league-worst run defense.
Kwiatkoski isn’t known for his over-the-top athleticism or ability in coverage, but his former experience as a defensive back, discipline in the film room, and endless motor make him effective in that regard.
Due to the fact that he has played in mostly a back-up role, he will fall in a price range that the Bengals are willing to pay. For a front office that is unlikely to go out and sign one of the big free-agent names, Kwiatkoski makes the most sense.
Bengals ownership will have to pry him away from the Bears, who will likely want to hold on to the player that has been referred to as a “hidden gem” by his teammates. Thankfully, Chicago has several free agents among their front seven and a lot of money already tied up on the defensive side of the ball. With the abundance of cap space the Bengals can create, they should be able to throw more money at Kwiatkoski while remaining in a price range they’re comfortable with.
A linebacker core of Pratt, Nick Kwiatkoski, and at least one rookie offers a significant upgrade over what the unit has fielded in recent years. The former Bears linebacker could thrive in an expanded role and prove to be the fiery leader the defense has been lacking.