The Cincinnati Bengals have been incredibly successful over the past two seasons. That is a great thing and something that should be celebrated in a place where sustained success has been fleeting. That success, however, also has a downside.
Winning big means you have great players -- players that everyone else in the NFL will want. Keeping them all is impossible. The first round of that happened this year with the losses of Vonn Bell and Jesse Bates. It will really hit home in 2024 when the Bengals have 38 free agents that have paydays coming.
One positive is the contract year effect. This is when players who want to get paid have that extra incentive to go big in that contract year. Players such as Hayden Hurst and Jesse Bates turned big years into big dollars.
The following are five upcoming free agents who are primed to come up huge in 2023 to get that 2024 payday.
DJ Reader's arrival on the Bengals was the beginning of a cultural shift. The Bengals went big on a tier-one free agent and shocked the NFL. He signed a four-year $53M contract that he has lived up to every dollar. His presence on the inside forcing double teams has opened things up for the Bengals' improved linebacker play.
When he is on the field the Bengals are much stingier against the run and he has juice in the pass rush also. Many think he should be a pro-bowl player, but, his production has not turned into league-wide recognition. That is okay because the Bengals and the fans appreciate the contributions of our run-stuffing defensive tackle.
Who else appreciates him? PFF (Pro Football Focus) does. They gave him a PFF grade of 87.3 for the year and I am sure the rest of the NFL GMs also noticed how effective big number 98 has been.
Reader's contract is up in 2024 and I am sure the Bengals would love to keep him in Cincinnati. That will be difficult with all the Bengals' extensions coming up.
Reader will most likely be taking his usual brand of interior wreckage up a notch for a shot at the open market. Here's hoping for an extension. If not he will surely contribute a huge year if he stays healthy.