Bold Bengals prediction: Carl Lawson stays, William Jackson III leaves
When free agency kicks off in March, the Bengals will have two big decisions to make on defense. With edge rusher Carl Lawson and cornerback William Jackson III both set to sign big contracts in the offseason, Cincinnati’s front office will have to decide if they will make the push to retain two of their top defensive playmakers.
Make no mistake, Cincinnati can absolutely afford to keep both Lawson and Jackson. However, whether they actually do so is a tougher question. While it would certainly be the smartest move for them to keep both players, various holes on the roster and incoming extensions for other players will likely keep the front office from being willing to give both the contracts they’re looking for.
So which of the two will be prioritized? At the moment, Lawson should be the favorite to remain in Cincinnati.
In 2020, the fourth-year defensive lineman accounted for the majority of the Bengals’ pass rush. With 5.5 sacks, Lawson led the team in quarterback takedowns by a margin of 3.5 sacks and was one of only three players to record more than one sack. Cincinnati’s defense has a pass rush problem and they can’t afford to let their one player who can generate pressure walk away.
As for Jackson, things are not very optimistic for the fifth-year cornerback’s future in Cincinnati. After signing cornerback Trae Waynes to a massive contract in the 2020 offseason, the Bengals already have a lot of capital invested in the position. While having two high-level corners is certainly a good thing, the Bengals may prefer not to tie up so much money in one position.
If the Bengals end up having to make a tough decision between Lawson and Jackson, expect them to roll with the former-Auburn defensive end.