If you polled Cincinnati Bengals fans about what the team needs the most heading into free agency and the 2024 NFL draft, you'll get a variety of responses: An explosive addition to the tight end room; a replacement at tackle as Jonah Williams could potentially be gone this offseason; an interior defensive linemen who can make an impact in the pass rushl a wide receiver to prepare for the departure of Tyler Boyd and/or Tee Higgins.
However, those are not the only holes in this team's roster. This front office has a lot of patchwork to do below these surface-level issues this offseason if they want to make it back to the big game -- and leave it this time with a Super Bowl ring for the city.
Let's take a step back and focus on the more underrated needs for the Bengals heading into the offseason, the positional issues that are not so often the subject of conversation, though regardless will need to be addressed either through free agent signings or draft picks.
Everyone expected the production for the Bengals' safeties to decline after the team lost its two great starters at the position during the 2023 offseason with the departure of Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates. Even then, many fans didn't expect this much of a drop-off. It was just a terrible year for most of the safeties, starting with the worst of the bunch, Nick Scott.
At the time, a lot of fans considered this to be a decent signing. The safety room lacked a veteran presence and Scott filled that role. He wasn't a great safety by any means during his time in Los Angeles, but he was a capable starter. Unfortunately, in his first year in stripes, Scott struggled mightily and was often a liability in coverage. He could make tackles, but he wasn't a last line of defense type of player like Bates and Bell were. His struggles led to him being benched for 2023 third-round pick, Jordan Battle, who is the only upside of this group.
Then there's second-year player Dax Hill, who started the season with a bang and had an incredible game against the Rams on Monday Night Football, but got progressively worse as the season went on and ended it worse than he started. He is still a fairly young player, so it's too early to give up hope on him yet. A lot of fans I've seen have suggested he be moved to the nickel-- where Mike Hilton currently lines up in the defense-- as that's where he took the majority of his later snaps in college at Michigan.
Not even the depth pieces at the position had good years, as Tycen Andersen-- another second-year Bengal who has turned into a solid special teams player and had an impressive preseason-- tore his ACL against the 49ers and promptly missed the rest of the season. This team needs another safety to start alongside Jordan Battle, especially if Dax Hill gets moved to the slot corner position or simply doesn't take the leap that he needs to. Some solid, cheap veteran options would be Jordan Whitehead, Julian Blackmon and Geno Stone.