What to really expect from the Bengals in free agency and NFL Draft
The Bengals enter an offseason with the task of upgrading their roster through free agency and the NFL Draft is critical to continue to surround franchise quarterback Joe Burrow with a roster ready to compete in the near future. Several unrestricted Cincinnati free agents will leave over the next few months.
The Bengals and wide receiver A.J. Green will likely part ways after the season. Green is one of the top five Cincinnati players in franchise history. John Ross, who was a bust at WR after being drafted ninth overall in the first round in 2017 will not return. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins passed Ross in the rotation at WR.
The Bengals will have decisions to make at multiple other positions on their roster. Pro Football Focus examined that in an article titled “2021 NFL Free Agency Preview: Players to target, ideal plans of action, potential cuts and more for all 32 teams” that was posted on Monday by Anthony Treash.
The Bengals need to make it a priority to re-sign starting cornerback William Jackson and Mackensie Alexander and edge rusher Carl Lawson during the 2021 offseason. Expect Cincinnati to address the offensive line during free agency. The Bengals will also have some decisions to make on who to cut.
"CINCINNATI BENGALSProjected cap space: $37.3 millionSoon-to-be unrestricted free agents: WR A.J. Green, WR John Ross, CB Mackensie Alexander, CB William Jackson III, Edge Carl Lawson, S Shawn WilliamsPotential cuts: DI Geno Atkins (saves $12.1 million in 2021 if cut after June 1), T Bobby Hart (saves $5.8 million in 2021), RB Giovani Bernard (saves $4.1 million in 2021), TE C.J. Uzomah (saves $5.1 million in 2021)Team needs: OL, CBPlayers to target/prioritize to re-sign: T Taylor Moton, T Daryl Williams, G Joe Thuney, CB William Jackson III, CB Desmond King II, EDGE Carl LawsonAs great a prospect Penei Sewell is, he should not be in the Bengals’ plans this offseason. Cincinnati’s offseason plan should consist of three things: (1) Upgrade the offensive line in free agency, (2) re-sign William Jackson III and bring in a slot corner and (3) reunite Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick.Cincy’s offensive line has been one of the five lowest-graded units in the NFL in each of the last four years. In 2020 specifically, they came in at No. 30 in combined offensive line PFF grade.Jonah Williams was a strong performer in his first year of NFL action (missed all of 2019 due to injury) ranking 13th among left tackles in true pass set grade, and center Trey Hopkins produced an above-average pass-block grade at his respective position for the second-straight year.The other three positions, however, were a liability. A dream-scenario would be Taylor Moton — the fourth-highest-graded right tackle over the last three years — and Joe Thuney — the fourth-highest-graded left guard over the last three years — each hitting the open market.If that occurs, Cincinnati needs to cough up the coin for those two ASAP Rocky."
The suggestion that Sewell should not be in the Bengals’ plans for the 2021 NFL Draft is a sharp departure from many NFL analysts. If Sewell is available when the Bengals pick fifth in the NFL Draft the expectation by most analysts is that they will choose him. That decision will be influenced by free agency.
If the Bengals can sign Moton in free agency from the Carolina Panthers that will significantly decrease their need to draft a tackle in April. Moton has played all 64 games during his NFL career and started all 48 during the last three seasons. Moton will likely come with a high price tag at one of the NFL’s most premium positions.
With Williams’ strong rookie season at LT, drafting Sewell is not as critical as it is being made out to be. Adding another tackle on either the right side or moving Williams to RT has to be an offseason priority however that occurs. If the Bengals are able to sign Moton and Tuney that’s a huge upgrade for the offensive line.
If Cincinnati chooses to then go in the direction to draft Chase the Bengals would have three high-level WRs for Burrow to throw to. If all the suggestions from PFF fall the Bengals way, the Cincinnati offense should improve significantly in 2021. There is a lot to monitor over the next three months.