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Five Good Questions: Defensive Ends, Linebackers and Pass Rushers

Joe Goodberry takes questions on twitter and answers them here.

Steve Dykes

From @RyInCBus: Gilberry, Geathers, M.Johnson, among others… all UFAs. Who do u see them re-signing?

It sounds like Michael Johnson and the Bengals both want a long term deal. I would be surprised if that deal didn't get done. As most of us know, the Bengals have increased the amount of nickel formations that they've played over the past four years. It's a trend in the NFL. In 2012, the Bengals passed the 50% mark by lining up in Nickel for 52% of all of their defensive snaps. In that package, the Bengals employ three defensive ends, Johnson and Dunlap outside and Gilberry/Geathers inside next to Geno Atkins at defensive tackle. That's basically your starting defense (three DEs, one DT, two LBs and five DBs). This alignment makes it very important for the Bengals to retain or add three defensive ends this offseason. They play/start three DEs, they'll need more than two or three quality players at that position.

From @LordWaylander: What about getting Dwight Freeney? He would be a very good addition to put into the mix, I feel.

I don't think the Bengals can afford to add a player like Freeney to their defensive rotation. The average playoff team spent $18.78M on their defensive line in 2012. The Bengals spent $18.47 on their defensive front in 2012. They'll get the money from Robert Geathers' expiring contract, but that'll go directly to Michael Johnson. With the need to re-sign Geno Atkins to a deal that could average $12-14M a year, the Bengals are going to be above the suggested $20M Positional Cap at Defensive Line. Adding a Dwight Freeney at about 2 years, $8M would mean they can't re-sign Carlos Dunlap next year and would have to start borrowing resources from another position like linebacker or safety. The Bengals need four defensive ends that can contribute, but they're going to need cheap labor via the draft.

From @mjmulvey47: I assume that Devon Still is likely to get a lot of those 3rd down snaps next year... assuming he develops.

Devon Still was known as a pass rusher coming out of Penn State in 2012. He's an athletic rusher that needed refinement and should help provide some pressure from inside if he develops and gets more of an opportunity. He definitely could help fill this role in Nickel defense as a "starter".

From @Call__Me__TY: What DE or OLB would you take with 1st pick?

If the Bengals decide to look towards a pass rusher in the first round, they will be presented with some very deep talent. Defensive ends are the most talented group at the top of the draft and getting one at pick 21 would be great value. Some of these prospects would be top 12 picks in weaker drafts. Some to keep an eye on: Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), Datone Jones (UCLA), Ezekiel Ansah (BYU), Dion Jordan (Oregon), Jarvis Jones (Georgia) and Alex Okafor (Texas).

From @BrendanLeister: Dion Jordan is such a perfect fit for the Bengals. Like as ideal as it gets.

He really would be. Jordan played OLB in a primarily 3-3-5 defense at Oregon. He wasn't your typical pass rusher, Jordan is an athletic freak that can drop into coverage and be a disruption playing any assignment asked of him. He'd be a perfect base strongside linebacker for the Bengals because he could also double as a defensive end in nickel packages. Manny Lawson couldn't stay on the field because he couldn't cover or rush the passer. Dion Jordan wouldn't have that problem. Drafting him would fill two holes for the Bengals at SLB and DE. We'll have a full report on Dion Jordan when our Linebacker rankings and notes are posted after the NFL Scouting Combine.