...everyone has one or two and they all pretty much suck. That being said, since everyone else is chiming in on their post-season hopes and predictions, I will do the same.
What are our offseason priorities?
1. Keep the defense together. The biggest favor we can do Andy Dalton is keep our defense in the top-5 range. This means shelling out some cash to keep Nelson, Sims, Rucker, and Jones. We may not get all of them, but we should sure take a strong run. We should also look at extending Thomas Howard.
2. Improve the running game by:
3. Upgrade the secondary. You should sign free agents for the present, and draft for the future. Clements is on a two year contract, Jones is injury prone, and we hope that Hall be ready for the start of next season. We need another shut-down corner to partner with Hall for the future. It's a passing league, and you must have good CBs or get eaten alive.The Bengals should use one of their first 3 draft picks on a shut down corner. There are 4 "round 1" worthy CBs coming out this year. We'll get one of them.
If the Bengals can do these three things, I would call the offseason a success. Positions which I didn't mention that come up in a lot of threads are safety and WR. Although I'm for adding depth at all positions and if a diamond falls to us we should grab it, I don't see these positions as being priorities.
On the safety issue, our priority is to re-sign Nelson. If we do that, we shouldn't have to look elsewhere for a safety. Mays and Sands should be given the opportunity to fight for the other starting job and I don't see any problem with signing some journeymen free agents for depth. Our defensive scheme doesn't feature the safety, it's built around our corners and if we get our shut down corner, we should be okay.
On the WR issue, a common argument is that we need a #2 "deep" option to take the pressure off of AJ Green. I disagree. We have a #2 option, his name is Jermaine Gresham. With Shipley coming back, we should be okay at WR. And yes, I wouldn't be surprised to see us come back with basically the same receiver corps. Obviously, "Baby" Hawk and Whalen will be given every opportunity to win spots, but I don't see us spending any serious money here on free agents. I know that may be a little disturbing to folks but here is the logic. This past year, we were running a new offense, with a new QB, and a new coordinator without the benefit of a true off season. Our offense was designed to be pretty conservative/vanilla and clearly Dalton was instructed to throw the ball away when in doubt. This kept the turnovers down, but it also hurt his numbers, the secondary receivers numbers, and our offense generally. I imagine a much more imaginative offense last year that maximizes Gresham's potential as a receiver. Also, keep in mind that Dalton doesn't have a strong arm--this isn't a Carson Palmer led offense, where you have one guy streaking down one side line, another down the other and a third doing a deep crossing route. It's dink and dump. If we are going to help Dalton's passing, we don't need a "deep threat," we need another underneath threat that will pull defenses up and spread them out and if they are stupid enough to leave some space downfield for Green, then Dalton should throw him jump balls to his hearts delight.