There are four or five players on the free agent market the Bengals should prioritize in order to get the right combination of experience, performance and need. On the offensive side of the ball they should target receiver Marques Colston to complement AJ Green. This is a throwing league and he would add serious value to our investment in AJ and Dalton. All signs are that the league has entered a permanent era of airball and two number one receivers are a necessity to compete at the highest levels. Finally, he comes from a place where they share the ball and where team comes first. There needs to be a hard worker with The Ring to help the team succeed at the next level. The other guy the Bengals need to swipe from the perennial playoff and one-time Superbowl-winning Saints is offensive guard Carl Nicks. We need fresh blood to help protect Dalton and a load that can help open the holes for our first-round-pick, rookie running back. Again, this pick-up immediately adds value to Dalton and the running back.
On defense, they should make a serious move for Mario Williams (double move, the Bengals could face Houston again in the playoffs) to augment the pass rush and solidify the linebacking corps (say it aint so Rey! not more unnecessary lost time by a starter!). The ability to disrupt the opponent's passing game is as important as the ability to pass in today's NFL, and Mario's 6'6" frame adds to the height movement on defense the Bengals initiated a few years back. As a defensive end to create multiple DE packages on passing downs, Osi Umenyiora would be "nice" to create a top tier pass rush and bring the aura of The Ring to the defensive unit. This is also a double move (strengthens us/weakens them) as the Bengals face the Giants this season. Next on the must have list is Asante Samuel. The cornerback situation is a mess, given last season's JonJoe fiasco (I admittedly have trouble letting go of that one) and the question mark that is Hall. Samuel would provide immediate stability at cornerback and give the Bengals time to develop some longer term solutions. Oh, and they play the Eagles this season as well.
Draft picks should focus on a top flight running back and safety and then look for premium corners and add depth to the offensive and defensive lines. Exactly who these players are and in what order depends on who the Bengals resign and pick-up, and is therefore an article for another day. The point now is that we are beyond the point where we have to hope rookies perform in order to succeed, it's time to grow up, grow a pair, and join the big boys in the win-now league.
Is the whole wish list do-able? I seriously doubt it. Will it cost money? Oh yeah, buckets full! How much can we afford? Depends on how imaginative the front office is and how high the bidding wars go. Should the Bengals be aiming this high? Without a doubt - it's either that or a new generation of elite players get dragged down into the morass that is the more recent history of the Bengal-Way.