3 potential cap casualties the Bengals need to sign for 2023

Potential Cap Cuts that Bengals Should Sign
Potential Cap Cuts that Bengals Should Sign / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

The 2023 Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They are considered among many analysts and pundits to be elite and one of the few teams that are surefire Super Bowl contenders.

That wasn't the case last year when most analysts had predicted that the 2021 Super Bowl appearance was a fluke. Some analysts even had the Bengals picked fourth in their own division. Instead, the Bengals ran it all the way back to the AFC Championship game and despite 10 minutes of absolutely dreadful officiating were a few plays short of their second consecutive Super Bowl.

So what does that mean for the 2023 Bengals and their hunt for upgrades? Quite a bit.

For the first time, the Bengals will get to take advantage of the Ring Chaser effect. Other teams acknowledged as Super Bowl favorites such as the Chiefs, Rams, and the Bills, have used that status to get upgraded talent on one-year deals.

Players that have made their money, have tasted individual success, and now want a resumé-defining title added to the list are a profile the Bengals must go after. Here are some potential salary cap cut candidate options that could be looking to make their Super Bowl run with the Bengals:

Khalil Mack, EDGE

"The Chargers currently have the fourth-worst salary cap situation in the NFL heading into the 2023 offseason. The team has a $-19,922,446 balance, and that’s before giving franchise quarterback Justin Herbert a massive extension (possibly) this offseason. Since the Khalil Mack contract has a $27,400,000 and $9,000,000 in dead cap, cutting or trading him would save the team $18.4 million."

Tim Crean

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As a 32-year-old former defensive player of the year and seven-time Pro-Bowler Khalil Mack has had plenty of individual success. He also has lots of earnings, at one point being the high-paid defensive player in NFL history.

What he doesn't have in his career is a ring.

With 84.5 sacks over his career and eight in the past season, the once-dominant, but, still effective player could be a great addition to the Bengals' pass rush that had trouble getting the quarterback on the ground last year. Add him in a rotation with Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, and an up-and-coming Joseph Ossai, and the 2023 defense would cause nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.

Shaq Griffin, CB

"The UCF product will soon enter the final season of his three-year, $40 million contract, although the Jags could free up some much-needed finances by releasing him. The defensive back has a cap hit of $17.2 million, but Jacksonville would only take on $4 million in dead money if it cuts him."

Alex Kay

*Here is the link to the quote above.

Cornerback could be a concern for the Bengals. With Chidobe Awuzie coming off a major knee injury and Eli Apple a free agent, the Bengals could use a quality corner.

A Pro-Bowler in 2019, Shaq Griffin missed most of last year on IR appearing in five games, but, had a 72.0 rating by Pro Football Focus in 2021. He has yet to appear in a Super Bowl since being drafted by Seattle in 2017 after their string of Super Bowl appearances.

If Jacksonville decides to cut him this could also be a "prove it" kind of deal for him. This could be an excellent twofer -- A chance to get a ring, and a chance to prove himself for a much more lucrative deal in 2024.

Donovan Smith, OT

"The Bucs are expected to release left tackle Donovan Smith by March 15 in a move to clear some salary cap space and are exploring moving Tristan Wirfs, a two-time Pro Bowl right tackle, to the left side to replace him. Smith, who has been a starter since being drafted in the second round in 2015, has started 124 games in Tampa Bay. He turns 30 years old in June and has a cap value of $17.9 million this year, according to OverTheCap.com."

Scott Reynolds

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As a two-time Pro-Bowler, Donovan Smith would fit most of the boxes on my list, except for one. He has already won a Super Bowl, but, who wouldn't want to go for two?

Coming off a down year in which a hyperextended elbow reduced his effectiveness, he had the lowest PFF grade of his career (58.1). That's still barely worse than Jonah Williams' grade of 61.2.

Next. Predicting Bengals Starting OL in 2023. dark

In 2021, Smith had a PFF grade of 83.3 which would be eons better than any tackle the Bengals have had recently. The Bengals could certainly use him with the likely cut of La'el Collins and the spotty play of Williams. If the Bengals could use some Joe Burrow recruiting magic, sell the chance for a Super Bowl run and the chance for a high-profile prove-it deal, they may be able to land him.