Recently, Cincinnati Magazine's Justin Williams interviewed several people "in the know" about the Bengals and their offseason needs. Cincy Jungle's Josh Kirkendall and Anthony Cosenza were included along with Adam Flango from CBS Sports, Matt Pentz of the Longview Daily News and Ben Bergin. The style was similar to that of our roundtable discussions.
The first question asked of the group was what position group needed to upgraded the most in the upcoming offseason. Both Josh and Anthony agree that the team needs to focus on defense, Anthony specifically saying the linebackers, when it comes to upgrading a certain position.
There are enough holes on the defensive front, at linebacker and defensive end, largely because many of those that played in 2012 will enter free agency. So first the Bengals really need to sign the free agents that they want to keep, adjusting into the mindset of upgrading respective positions afterwards, especially in the secondary where the team needs a starting safety alongside Reggie Nelson and some stability at cornerback opposite Leon Hall. Will Dre Kirkpatrick be ready after having an offseason procedure on his knee? Can the team re-sign Adam Jones, or do they need to re-sign older veterans like Terence Newman and Nate Clements?
I think the linebacking corps as a whole needs addressing. With Rey Maualuga, Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson entering free agency, at least two starting spots on the unit are open. It appears that Vontaze Burfict might be moving from the weakside linebacker position to the middle as a replacement for Maualuga, so that would leave vacancies at the two spots flanking him. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the team makes a push to re-sign Howard and drafts either Alec Ogletree out of Georgia or Arthur Brown out of Kansas State.
They also discussed which Bengals player could be considered a dark horse, or an undervalued free agent that the Bengals could look to re-sign. Josh went with cornerback Adam Jones while Anthony sided with third-down back Brian Leonard.
Adam Jones. With the attention clearly focused on Andre Smith and Michael Johnson, we can't forget about Jones, who is a tremendous contributor not only as a third cornerback on a defense that lined up in a five-DB formation over 50 percent of the time, but a play-maker on punt returns as well.
The most undervalued impending free agent has to be Brian Leonard. The third-down specialist always had a knack for making a clutch play in the passing or running game. His role on the club diminished under the new Jay Gruden offense, but he still had contributions on special teams and in pass protection. If a club needs a third-down back and special teams ace, Leonard will be a good pickup.
To catch the rest of their participation in Cincinnati Magazine's round table, check it out here.