The Cincinnati Bengals had an exciting and surprising 2011 season in which they went 9-7 and went to the playoffs as a wildcard team. They may have not won 10 games in the season or won the division or beat the Steelers or Ravens at least once, but considering they were expected to be in the running for Andrew Luck this offseason, it was a pretty good year and it's a year on which the Bengals can attempt to build a successful team from.
However, that doesn't mean that they're all set heading into the 2012 season. There are a lot of needs that the team has, both on offense and defense, and without filling those needs, they don't have a shot of at least repeating what they did in 2011.
On offense, the Bengals badly need a running back, wide receiver and guard. It's likely that Cedric Benson, who is an unrestricted free agent, is not returning to the team in 2012. That leaves the team without the bell-cow back that they've used for a long time and leaves Bernard Scott as the only back on the roster (Brian Leonard is a free agent too, by the way) and there are major concerns about his durability and his ability to carry the load. There's really no chance that the Bengals don't find a new running back in the coming weeks.
At guard, Bobbie Williams, Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn are all free agents leaving Clint Boling and Otis Hudson as the only two guards on the roster and if you add their game-time experience together, you get next to nothing. It's extremely unlikely that the team brings back Livings or McGlynn, considering how they played in 2011, and the only guard they may bring back is Williams, who will be 36 when the season starts.
Then there's wide receiver. Both Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell are heading into free agency and it's unlikely that either of them are back in stripes in 2012 based on Caldwell's play and Simpson's inconsistency and legal troubles. That leaves A.J. Green as the only big wide receiver threat on the team other than Jordan Shipley, who is returning from injury. The Bengals need to bring in a talented No. 2 receiver, either in the draft or in free agency, to take some attention off of Green.
On defense, the team needs to address the secondary, both at cornerback and safety. At corner, Leon Hall is attempting to return from a season-ending Achilles rupture, both Adam Jones and Kelly Jennings are free agents and Nate Clements is going to be 33 in December and is a liability in coverage at times. The team is still reeling from the loss of Johnathan Joseph and they need to find a replacement for the future of the game. The majority of analysts believe that they'll go after a corner with one of their first-round picks.
Safety is another area of concern, though, and his has been for some time. Chris Crocker, the team's strong safety, is not good in pass coverage and was a liability in run support at the end of the season as well. The starting free safety, Reggie Nelson, is an unrestricted free agent and is considered to be the most important player that the team needs to re-sign once free agency opens. Taylor Mays could be an option at strong safety but he barely played in 2011 and it's unclear as to what Mike Zimmer's plan is for him in the future.
In my opinion, these five positions, running back, guard, wide receiver, cornerback and safety, are the most important for the team to fill in the offseason. The question, though, is what is the most important to fill first.
What do you think?