Poll: What Is The Biggest Hole In The Bengals Depth Chart?

The Bengals have been active in this free agency period, re-signing many of their own key players, and finding other players to fill holes. They've actually made so many moves that it's hard to keep up with the Bengals' biggest needs and holes, so let's reevaluate.

Running Back: The Bengals already have 4 solid runningbacks on the team with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, and Cedric Peerman. It's expected that BJGE and Scott will split carries as the main ballcarriers, while Leonard may continue to play on passing downs, and Peerman will continue his incredible play on special teams. That makes for a bit of a logjam at RB, because the team usually only keeps three or four runningbacks on the team. However, there is certainly still room for another addition through the draft. No one is locked in as the #1 feature back, and the Bengals may choose to draft one for the future. Leonard, despite his heroics and contributions to the team, is at the biggest risk of being cut, if the Bengals add a versatile runningback in the draft like Doug Martin or Isaiah Pead. In addition, the contract situations could point to the addition of a young runningback. The Bengals could get by in 2012 with their current roster, but only the Law Firm is signed through 2013.

Wide Receiver: From poll results and talking with fans, it seems that Bengals fans are least worried about the second wide receiver position than any other position of need. These fans are making a huge mistake by not realizing the importance of the WR2. Andy Dalton needs a consistent, reliable receiver on the field opposite AJ Green. This receiver needs to be able to step up and make plays when Green is getting double covered, and he also needs to be able to make Dalton feel comfortable so that Dalton can develop and learn. Without a solid WR2, the offense doesn't move the ball. Jerome Simpson filled the WR2 role last year, and was mediocre at his job, and bad at staying out of legal trouble. Simpson is a free agent, and has not been resigned to another team. Andre Caldwell has joined Peyton Manning in Denver. Jordan Shipley, Ryan Whalen, and Andre Hawkins seem best suited for the slot, leaving only Brandon Tate, Amon Binns, and Vidal Hazelton available for promotion in-house. At this point in time, no good WRs are left in free agency. The Bengals will probably be taking a wide receiver in the first two rounds of this draft.

Offensive Guard: Last year, Bobbie Williams started at right guard and Nate Livings started at left guard. Livings was one of the worst players on the 2011 squad, and Williams was great at run-blocking, but he missed 7 games due to injury and suspension. 2011 4th-rounder Clint Boling replaced Williams in weeks 1-3, while Mike McGlynn replaced Williiams in week 4 & 15-18. In all honesty, none of these players will be above average NFL guards in 2012. Livings left in free agency to the Dallas Cowboys, and McGlynn left for the Indianapolis Colts. That leaves only Clint Boling and 2010 5th rounder Otis Hudson signed to guard. In this year's free agency, the Bengals added Left Guard Travelle Wharton, who will be a slight upgrade to Livings, and can also back up the left tackle spot. Bobbie Williams remains unsigned (he's 35 and coming off major surgery), and the Bengals may choose to upgrade the right guard spot in the draft.

For the rest of the offense, there aren't any major holes. The Bengals are looking for a backup tight end, but they aren't in the market for a quarterback, fullback, offensive tackle, or center.

Cornerback: Last year's starters (Leon Hall & Nate Clements) are returning, and the backup situation seems settled too. Adam Jones was re-signed, and Jason Allen was added in free agency. 2010 3rd rounder Brandon Ghee lies in waiting behind these five, and local product Rico Murray is also hanging around. The Bengals will only carry between 4-6 cornerbacks in free agency. However, that doesn't mean that the Bengals won't add a corner in free agency. Similar to the running back situation, the Bengals have a lot of role players here, but the future is not settled at all. Pacman and Clements only have one year left on their contracts, and Leon Hall is recovering from achilles surgery. A cornerback drafted in the first two rounds would be able to learn behind the current group in year one, then replace and start for Clements in 2013.

Safety: The Bengals biggest re-signing priority, Reggie Nelson, was resigned after testing the open market and almost signing to the New York Jets. Nelson has signed a 4 year deal, and has locked up the free safety spot, but the strong safety spot remains up in the air. Last year's starter, Chris Crocker, remains on the team and has a large amount of money due to him, but he is penchant for making mistakes and may be cut before the 2013 season. Behind Crocker are the interesting prospects Taylor Mays and Robert Sands, both who have incredible physical traits and measurables, but must become better football players. Jeromy Miles, the special teams ace, is also on the team. I doubt that the Bengals will choose a first day prospect like Mark Barron from Alabama (because history shows that the Bengals don't value safeties highly), but there is certainly room for a rookie like Barron to make a big impact on this team.

Linebacker: Backups Dan Skuta and Vincent Rey have resigned to the team, while starting strongside LB Manny Lawson and versatile backup Brandon Johnson have not signed to any team yet. What's left is an absolute logjam of adequate players who can be moved around. Rey Maualuga and Thomas Howard both started last year, but Maualuga didn't shine in his natural middle position, and Howard may be moved around if Keith Rivers is ready to play and start at the weakside spot. Of course, you also have the speedster Dontay Moch waiting to see the field, and Roddrick Muckelroy and DeQuin Evans are intriguing backups. Whew. One popular theory being thrown around right now is to draft Luke Kuechley with pick No. 17, start him at MLB, and move Rey back to his former strongside spot. With everything so unsettled at this position, don't be surprised if the Bengals use an early draft pick on an LB and have a major switch up.

Defensive Tackle: Pat Sims has been resigned (Hallelujah)! That means that all three pure DTs from 2011 have returned. Geno Atkins is a pass-rushing monster, while Domata Peko and Sims are much stronger as run-stopping stalwarts. Peko is signed for a few more years, and the details of Sims deal remain undisclosed. The re-signing of SIms greatly decreased the chances that the Bengals take a first round DT like Michael Brockers, Fletcher Cox, or Jerel Worthy, but that possibility hasn't been eliminated completely.

Defensive End: (I now realize that I have written about every defensive position... but stay with me here!) Firstly, rotational guys Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene have been lost in free agency. After week 5, Rucker started over Michael Johnson on the right side of the line, and was great in run defense. Fanene was more of a pass-rushing specialist, but both were able to shift inside to the DT spot, so their versatility will be missed. I'm more upset about losing Rucker, but his contract offer from the Browns was far too big to match. In any case, Michael Johnson, Robert Geathers, and Carlos Dunlap are the only DEs that returned for the Bengals. Former (and recent) top ten picks Jamaal Anderson and Derrick Harvey have been signed by the Bengals and are interesting prospects, but will they be able to replace Frostee and Fanene? Neither Anderson or Harvey are guaranteed to make final cuts in September. That's why I'm excited about the Bengals hosting Matt Roth in for a visit today. Roth's run defense in 2011 was very good, before having his season cut short to injury. Hopefully Roth's asking price is not too high, because he could be a perfect replacement for Frostee Rucker. If Roth doesn't join the Bengals though, the team may choose to take a defensive end early in this year's draft.

All in all, the Bengals have had a successful free agency thus far. I'd still like for the Bengals to re-sign Manny Lawson and Donald Lee, but that's just nitpicking at this point. Point is, the Bengals have done well in free agency by turning draft needs into draft wants.

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