The Cincinnati Bengals have 39 players scheduled to become free agents after the 2023 season. Fifteen are exclusive rights or restricted free agents. The remaining 24 will become unrestricted free agents, available to sign wherever they’d like unless they can work something out with the team before then.
We already know that this will be the last year in stripes for some of them. For others, the team has talked publicly about hanging on to this season and beyond. Tee Higgins and Logan Wilson fit into this category, yet nothing has come to fruition on those fronts. A few others could be one and done in the Queen City.
Bengals fans need to pay close attention to how things play out for upcoming contract extensions in Cincinnati and around the league. Each could affect what happens with these four noteworthy Bengals slated to hit free agency in 2024.
D.J. Reader is one of the most critical pieces on this Cincinnati defense. He is a significant reason the Bengals’ defense has been so good these past few years.
Not enough is being made of the fact that he is inching his way to becoming a free agent at the end of the 2023 season. If he departs Cincinnati, it will not be easy to replace him.
Pro Football Focus ranks him as the ninth-best defensive interior lineman in the league. Of Reader, PFF’s Gordon McGuinness writes:
"Reader plays a vital role in Lou Anarumo's defense, highlighted by his 85.2 PFF grade in 2022. As a run defender, he has earned grades of 69.0 or better since 2017. He produced a career-high 84.1 PFF pass-rush grade in 2022, registering 32 pressures from 310 pass-rushing snaps."- Gordon McGuinness, Pro Football Focus
A few talented options will be available in the 2024 draft will make the team think they can afford to lose Reader. However, there is no guarantee that any rookie defensive tackles can develop into the caliber of player Reader is now. It would not be wise to count on a rookie to give the teal the kind of presence Reader's leadership and play brings to the team.
If the Bengals could only keep either Reader or Higgins, it would not be out of the question to think Reader takes precedence over the wideout because Chase is on the roster. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.