Most NFL analysts have neglected the Bengals need to add edge rushers during the 2021 offseason. Most of the conversation about who Cincinnati needs to acquire in free agency and the NFL Draft is focused on the offensive line, a playmaking wide receiver and cornerback. Adding an edge rusher needs to be a priority.
The Bengals finished last in the NFL in 2020 with 17 sacks. Carl Lawson led Cincinnati with 5.5 sacks in the most playing time of his career. No other Bengal had more than two sacks. The trade of Carlos Dunlap during the season and declining skills of defensive tackle Geno Atkins have hurt the Cincinnati defensive line.
Lawson is a free agent who the Bengals could decide to use the franchise tag on for the 2021 season. Wide receiver A.J. Green was franchise tagged in 2020 and had his most unproductive full season of his career. Cincinnati has until March 9 to make a decision on if and who they will use the franchise tag on for 2021.
The Bengals are highly unlikely to attempt to sign future Pro Football Hall of Famer J.J. Watt. Watt is at the end of his career. Cincinnati needs an edge rusher that can grow with the franchise. The Bengals will have over a dozen edge rushers available among the top 200 free agents in 2021 according to Pro Football Focus.
Cincinnati should sign an edge rusher in free agency and use the middle rounds to select one in the draft. With Joe Burrow at quarterback, the Bengals should be playing with the lead often in the next few years. A successful formula for teams with high-scoring offenses is to add pass rushers on defense.
The Bengals need to acquire multiple pass rushers in the future as the franchise builds around Burrow. Getting stops late in the game will be critical as Cincinnati hopes to emerge as one of the best teams in the NFL. In a league increasingly reliant on passing, edge rushers will continue to gain importance.