Bengals should inquire about DT Sheldon Richardson
The Bengals signed former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi last month in free agency. Cleveland cut their other starting DT Sheldon Richardson last week in a move to save the Browns $12 million. Richardson started all 16 games for the Browns in 2020 and finished with 64 tackles, five tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Christian Covington played in all 16 games for the Bengals in 2020, starting 14. Covington led Cincinnati defensive tackles with 39 tackles without recording a TFL or sack last season. Signing Richardson to reunite him with Ojunobi would help stabilize a poorly performing Bengals defensive line from 2020.
Ojunobi had 43 tackles, five TFLs and 2.5 sacks last season. With other priorities in the NFL Draft, the Bengals would be able to sign Richardson to a reasonable contract. Cincinnati signed offensive tackle Riley Reiff as a free agent last month to a one-year contract. The Bengals should be able to sign Richardson for one year.
Richardson is still playing at a high level. The Bengals were able to sign Ogunjobi in his prime for one year. Cincinnati is hoping the switch for Ogunjobi who often lined up as a nose tackle to a three-technique in the 4-3 defense will help him excel in the Queen City. Richardson would give Cincinnati two solid DTs.
The Bengals finished last in the NFL in 2017 with 17 sacks in 2020. Most of the focus during the offseason has been on Cincinnati adding edge rushers. The signing of Trey Hendrickson who finished second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks in 2020 will help. Cincinnati is likely to add another edge rusher in the NFL Draft.
With the offensive line an extreme priority and adding another playmaker for quarterback Joe Burrow, the Bengals are likely to wait until at least the third round to add an edge rusher. Inquiring about Richardson is at least worth an effort to see if he would be interested in joining Ogunjobi.
Pressure up the middle often bothers QBs more than from the edge. Most OL or QBs will reiterate that. D.J. Reader is signed through 2023 and returns after playing five games in 2020 before suffering a season-ending quad injury. Renell Wren is coming off two injured played seasons after being a fourth-round draft pick in 2019.
Mike Daniels and Josh Tupou add depth at DT for Cincinnati. Richardson would team with Ogunjobi, Reader and Wren to give the Bengals a deep rotation and insurance with the injury history of the middle two. Freedom Akinmoladun and Kahlil McKenzie are on the offseason roster.
In addition to finishing last in sacks, the Bengals were 27th in rushing yards allowed and 31st allowing a sieve-like 5.1 rushing yards per carry last season. The Cincinnati offense has a chance to be prolific in 2020. If the Bengals do not improve their defense, expect shootouts almost every week.