4 former Bengals players who will thrive in 2023
Despite some key signings, like bringing back Germaine Pratt after a career year and poaching Orlando Brown Jr. away from the Chiefs, the Bengals did have a couple of painful losses to free agency.
However, on the flip side, they lost a good bit of key contributors. Some were expected, and others came as a disappointing shock to the fanbase and, most likely, Bengals personnel.
Alas, when you boil it down, football is a business. Sports is a business. Money talks and unfortunately you can't keep everyone no matter how good, especially if you have more important players (Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase) who have big paydays on the horizon.
So, here are four former Bengals who moved on to other teams that I believe will thrive in 2023 on their new squads.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
Vonn Bell and Hayden Hurst
I decided to put these two together because they both went to the same team (Carolina Panthers) and I think they will continue to play with the same promise as they did when they were in Cincinnati.
Let's start with Bell. He's entering a very similar situation as he was when he came to the Bengals in 2020. The Panthers are almost certainly about to draft a quarterback with the number one pick, just like the Bengals were in 2020, and this upcoming season will probably be a transitional year for Carolina as they continue to iron out the kinks in their roster.
Bell's impact on Cincinnati will always be understated to everyone outside of the Bengals fanbase. He brings a level of leadership and experience to an otherwise young Carolina defense, with stars like Brian Burns and Jaycee Horn still on their rookie contracts.
And, all in all, Bell had a career year in 2022. He tripled his career interception total by snatching four from opposing quarterbacks and allowed a career-low passer rate of just 64.0 as well as not allowing a single touchdown in coverage.
It's hard to imagine Bell doesn't thrive in Carolina, who already had an underrated defense before his arrival.
As for Hurst, I've said it once and I'll say it again, he is an ideal safety valve. He doesn't go down easy and he's a reliable pass-catcher, as he had the fifth-highest catch percentage among all tight ends last year. This is perfect for whichever quarterback Carolina takes first overall, whether it be Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, or even Anthony Richardson. Having a reliable guy for your rookie quarterback will no doubt help him elevate his game and grow more confident in his passing ability at the next level.
Hurst and Bell will help bring Carolina back to being competitive, and, unfortunately, the front office wasn't able to retain at least one of them.