Free Agents Bengals Could Sign for Minimum
David Irving, DL, Las Vegas Raiders
David Irving, much like Conley, is an immense risk-reward addition to the team. In the last three seasons, Irving has played only four total games, including a stint on the COVID-19 list last season for the Raiders (not that the Bengals should only be targeting players off of the Raiders’ scrap heap, but they do seem to recur quite a bit).
The games Irving has not played may be more notable than the ones he has, as Irving was suspended the entire 2019 season for violating the NFL’s drug policy for marijuana. Irving subsequently announced he was quitting football in protest of the policy; although he has since returned to the sport, he does remain an outspoken advocate against the league’s stance on marijuana.
Though Irving has suffered some career turmoil, the absences he has had from the last three seasons have not really been injury-related. Much like I mentioned with Burton and Conley, Irving is an incredible athlete who has not suffered any injuries that would significantly hamper that athleticism.
When Irving was at his peak, he was a menace on the interior for the Dallas Cowboys, raising his star at the same time as Demarcus Lawrence burst onto the scene. He was incredibly efficient in 2016, recording four sacks and four forced fumbles while playing minimal snaps each game.
In 2017, in just eight games, Irving notched seven sacks before spraining his ankle. The Cowboys placed an impressive second-round tender on Irving as a restricted free agent following these two impressive seasons.
That dynamic interior player is still within Irving, and the Bengals desperately need that havoc on the interior. Although D.J. Reader and Tyler Shelvin will serve as excellent nose tackles for the team, the interior pass rush may be lacking. The Bengals made a great signing in Larry Ogunjobi, but Ogunjobi is not a certainty as a 3-tech, and the Bengals lack depth behind him.
Irving has played for the Raiders only on non-guaranteed minimum contracts, so his price point will be incredibly low. If the Bengals quickly realize Irving has lost his disruption ability, they can cut bait on him too. However, the risk-reward of signing Irving comes with the promise of some tantalizing potential as a pass-rush specialist on the interior.
As with the cornerback market, there are more reliable, more expensive veterans on the market still, such as Jurrell Casey and Kawann Short. Even Bengals legend Geno Atkins remains unsigned if the team wanted to bring him back. Irving, though not even remotely as certain an addition as these veterans, could offer the same upside for this Bengals’ defensive line.