Bengals: First week free agency grades for every AFC North team

Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals
La’el Collins (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Cincinnati Bengals

New additions:

  • OT La’el Collins
  • C Ted Karras
  • G Alex Kappa
  • TE Hayden Hurst

See a theme?

The Bengals’ fatal flaw in 2021 was a leaky line, and much to Bengals fans’ delight, the team was aggressive, to the point of not letting Collins leave town, in addressing the line.

Notably, the Bengals re-signed numerous key pieces from last year’s AFC Championship team. B.J. Hill, Clark Harris, Josh Tupou, Mike Thomas, both the safety and the ST/WR, and second half of the season hero Eli Apple were brought back on shorter-term, team-friendly deals.

La’el Collins will come into camp as easily the best lineman on the team. He worked with Frank Pollack in Dallas and will bring a nastiness and stability to the right side of the line that was clearly absent in 2021. Collins is the centerpiece of free agency for the team and should anchor this line into Joe Burrow’s second contract.

Ted Karras comes from New England with a blue-collar work ethic and toughness the team hasn’t had at Center since Richie Braham. Karras is extremely durable and has been well-coached and should slot seamlessly in, and anchor, center, which was a problem position in 2021.

Alex Kappa is another high character, lunch-pail work ethic guy coming from Tampa. In fact, Tom Brady thought enough of him to try to recruit him back to Tampa, but ultimately Kappa agreed to terms with Cincinnati. Kappa grades out well as both a run blocker and pass protector and his addition should seal up the right side of the line.

Hayden Hurst is an interesting addition. The former first-round Raven is still only 28 but has never lived up to the first-round pedigree. After Baltimore, he moved on to Atlanta and posted similar numbers to the now-departed CJ Uzomah.

If we are being honest, the bar isn’t terribly high as far as replacing Uzomah’s production. We all loved Uzomah and his personality, but he was often only the fourth or fifth option on offense. Hurst brings superior athleticism and good hands, as well a willingness and ability to get dirty and block. He signed on a one-year deal, ostensibly to reset his value for one last big contract, so he should be motivated. Bengal fans may be very happy with Hurst in 2022.

Grade: A+

More. 3 Players Bengals Were Wise to Pass On. light

Call me a homer for giving the Bengals an A+, but by virtue of who I am writing this article for, I AM a homer. Also, just on its face, the team has earned the highest mark in the division.

Management identified the biggest team need, addressed it with the best players available, and 2022, with a well-protected Joe Burrow, could be a season for the history books in Cincinnati.