With little over a month separating them from a trip to the AFC Championship Game, the Cincinnati Bengals are trying to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past.
Those two things aren't mututally exclusive, though. While the Bengals managed to back within a game of the Super Bowl last season, an audit of the roster heading into the offseason shows that there's improvements to be made in some key areas.
Notably, Zac Taylor needs to figure out what's going on with the offensive line.
Cincinnati has roughly $35.7 million in cap space to utilize in free agency, and fixing protection for Joe Burrow should be near the top of this offseason's priority list. Burrow was sacked 41 times in 2022 but the number to focus on is five. That's how many times he was sacked in the AFC Championship Game loss to the Chiefs, and those sacks totaled a loss of 32 yards -- something that shouldn't still be happening.
Needless to say, the Bengals are looking into it.
According to The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr., one potential release candidate could be La'el Collins, which would be notable for a few different reasons.
Not the least of which is what the Bengals would save by making the cut. Cincinnati could save around $7 million this offseason by releasing Collins, but doing so would be an admission of failure by a front office that hyped his arrival almost exactly a year ago to the date.
Collins finished last season with a PFF grade of 57.9, which was worse than the two seasons by tackles he replaced (Reily Reiff and Bobby Hart). Andre Smith finished with a 55.3 grade in 2017, which is how far you have to go back to find someone significantly worse than what Collins turned in last year, as his grade is only slightly above replacement from the 57.6 and 57.1 grades Hart finished with in 2019 and 2018 respectively.
That's not good.
It's also not how this was supposed to go. Collins was sold to fans as a steal when he was signed away from the Cowboys last offseason but he hardly lived up to the hype. He wasn't consistent, couldn't stay healthy, and ended up missing the most important games of the Bengals season.
Moving on from Collins should be a no-brainer for the Bengals, as even though the market to replace him isn't saturated with talent the bar to clear has been set pretty low.