The Bengals have 14 players hitting unrestricted free agency in the spring but will retain a good chunk of their starters. When looking at the players who will be back in 2024, it's pretty obvious to pinpoint where the demotions will take place.
Whether it's a result of poor play or the Bengals having a better option already, these two Bengals are going to be demoted next year.
This is an obvious one. As soon as Joe Burrow is healthy and ready to play, he'll be the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. That's not even up for discussion, even as good as Jake Browning has played in his absence.
Browning is 2-1 since taking over for Burrow when the former number one overall pick went down with a wrist injury in Week 11. It felt grim when the Bengals dipped below .500 the following week but Browning has gotten them back over the .500 mark and is playing really well.
That being said, he's a backup quarterback and that will be his role next year. The former UDFA out of Washington is an exclusive-rights free agent in March meaning that he'll more than likely be back in Cincinnati. Don't be surprised if the team gets some trade offers for him this spring if he finishes the season on a high note.
The Bengals got a decent rookie season from Cordell Volson in 2022 when he won the starting left guard job over Jackson Carman but he has not played well enough in 2023 to keep the job next year and beyond. The former North Dakota State product has a rough PFF pass-blocking grade of 38.1 and an overall grade of 57.1.
The good news with Volson is that his run-blocking grade is officially in the green, sitting at 66.7. The offensive line has been playing better since Browning took over so Volson hasn't looked as bad but make no mistake, the Bengals need to find a better left guard option for 2024 and beyond.
Whether the Bengals dip into the draft to find their next left guard or try to land one in free agency, the writing is likely on the wall for Volson as a starter. He can still be on the roster next year and then can step in if an injury occurs but the Bengals can't keep him as the starting left guard if this unit wants to be the best it can in 2024.