The one move the Bengals have to make during the 2021 offseason to become a contender is on the offensive line. The 2021 offseason is critical to acquire talent upfront to protect franchise quarterback Joe Burrow. Expect Cincinnati to add OL help in free agency and through the 2021 NFL Draft.
The two names most often mentioned are New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney who is a free agent and native of Centerville, Ohio and Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. Thuney would help provide Cincinnati with a veteran presence up front and Sewell can anchor the OL throughout the Burrow tenure.
The Bengals have other needs throughout their roster but until the offensive line is rebuilt the skill positions will mean little. Expect Cincinnati to draft cornerbacks and a wide receiver in April. Adding a third playmaking WR to join Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins will help Burrow become more productive.
CBS Sports examined the “NFL 2021: One key move each AFC team must make to dethrone the Chiefs next season.” Cincinnati is clearly a long way for competiting with Kansas City, but at the most important position, Burrow gives the Bengals a quarterback who can compete with the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes.
"Cincinnati BengalsKey move: Get Joe Burrow healthy and build a wall around himIn all likelihood, the Bengals are not going to be able to go toe-to-toe with Kansas City by next season. They are still a few seasons away from legitimate contention in the AFC. That said, they have the hardest part of any rebuild complete after drafting Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick last offseason.What they’ll need to focus on this offseason is seeing that he recovers smoothly from his torn ACL and, in the meantime, build a strong offensive line in front of him. In just 10 games played, Burrow was sacked 32 times last season and ultimately wasn’t able to play through an entire season.He showed in those 10 contests that he is capable of leading a franchise into the playoffs, but he won’t be able to if he’s getting bombarded on a weekly basis. If Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell were to fall to them at No. 5, that’d be one heck of a start towards building a wall in front of their franchise savior."
Rebuilding the Bengals to a perennial playoff contender is likely to take another season or two. The 2022 offseason in free agency and NFL Draft will be as critical as the 2021 offseason. If the Bengals can improve the offensive and defensive lines in the 2021 offseason they can target the best available players in 2022.
Key free agents the Bengals could lose during the 2021 offseason include CB William Jackson III and defensive end Carl Lawson. Losing either Jackson or Lawson adds to the need for Cincinnati to upgrade their talent on the DL and CB. The Bengals have over $37 milllion to spend in free agency during the 2021 offseason.