1. Defensive end - This completely depends on Justin Smith. If he goes, I believe the Bengals will be in a desperate need to draft an end. The talent that would replace Smith, on the current roster, would downgrade the talent on this defense instantly.
2. Cornerback - After Brad Johansen said, during Bengals line on the Tuesday following the 17-23 loss to the Steelers, that Deltha O'Neal just isn't interested in playing football, I thought to myself, "what the hell." Honestly, I think he's a good talent but who knows about his commitment to this team. Tory James won't be signed and is on his way out. Keiwan Ratliff is, at best, a Nickleback.
3. Middle Linebacker - In the past two seasons Odell Thurman, Ahmad Brooks, Brian Simmons and Caleb Miller started at middle linebacker. Marvin Lewis admitted that Thurman isn't "on the team" and his return "isn't on the horizon". Caleb Miller and Brian Simmons are best suited on the outside and Ahmad Brooks is just too raw to play at middle -- he overshoots the runs and hasn't a clue how to play pass coverage. This team needs to think about acquiring a middle linebacker that's talented and loyal enough to start 16 games.
4. Running back - Kenny Watson is a free agent and Chris Perry is, at best, undependable with his history of injuries. I believe the Bengals need to have four quality running backs on roster. I believe Watson will return and Perry will be back for training camp. But if Perry's Ken-Griffey-Jr-like history proves true again, it would be nice to have a quality running back on roster when he goes down.
5. Tight End - If the Bengals can re-sign tight end/fullback Reggie Kelly, that will remove the desperation of picking up a tight end. This team doesn't require a pass catching tight end to operate. It has the weapons and the mismatches to succeed (provided Chris Henry actually tries). Kelly's blocking ability helped keep Palmer off the ground and the respect between the two is showing. Kelly should be re-signed. Tony Stewart's contract is also up. He's a good special teams player and re-signing him won't hurt. But I think the team should also think about signing another tight end that will be the mainstay for the future.
This top-five could change as the off-season moves on.
Have an opinion about my top-five? Let us know it.