The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books and the newest crop of Bengals have been added. Some believe that the Bengals knocked another one out of the park, while others claimed that they reached for players because of need. By what this writer has read on various social media outlets and draft pundits, it seems as if the majority are in the "they had a solid showing" camp.
Regardless of one's take on the situation, there is a sentiment that more can still be done to continue to build on the Super Bowl-like reputation of the Cincinnati Bengals' roster. They were absolutely dormant this year in free agency, which was surprising because of their salary cap space and it maddened some to no end. On the other hand, it wasn't much of a surprise because of some impending deals that could handcuff them financially, and well, because these are Mike Brown's Bengals, after all.
For those in the "Bengals reached in the draft for so-and-so here" camp, you only need to look at the team's lack of outside free agent signings and/or re-signings to see why they got a little bit of an itchy trigger finger. That fact, combined with runs on positions that they coveted, might have given the impression that they sprung for players a little earlier than they would have liked. Others might retort that they simply got the guys that they had targeted. Maybe it's both.
Now, with free agency mostly picked over, might the Bengals scour over the free market once more to put some finishing touches on their stacked roster? Brown has shown patience and a penchant for a bargain deal when operating in free agency and sometimes that takes missing out on a deal or grabbing a secondary option later. Often times, teams do some early work when free agency starts, make their selections in the draft and then look over what's left out there on the free market for extra bodies and/or great deals. This has become especially common over the last few years with the new CBA and the re-emphasis for cheap talent in the draft. The Bengals could be one of those teams.
What would they need though? One of the excellent things that was seen in this year's draft was the balance between offensive and defensive players (four players on each side of the ball), as well as how they didn't over-dip into one specific position group. It represents their overall depth as a roster, really, and though nothing is pressing at the moment, the Bengals could use some competition and/or extra bodies at a few positions.
One could really point at any position on offense except for quarterback and running back. Depending on the development and recent off-field issue with Orson Charles, a third tight end could be needed. Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley are two interesting options, although both are coming off of major injuries. Still, they may have some good football left in them at a cheap price, as Finley is 27 years old while Keller is 29. The Patriots have their eye on Keller now that they draft is over.
Interestingly enough, the Charles situation also impacts fullback. The Bengals likely want a thumper to lead the way for Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, as evidenced by their signing of two players in the position as undrafted free agents. Still, proven veterans like Vonta Leach or :Le'Ron McClain could be cheap additions to compete with the younger, unproven guys.
Wide receiver isn't all that much of a need, but the Bengals need to find someone to man the slot with Andrew Hawkins' departure. Dane Sanzenbacher could end up being that guy, as could recently-signed undrafted free agent Colin Lockett out of San Diego State, but there are no guarantees with either of them. There are some prominent names on the market at the moment, but none really epitomize and NFL slot receiver other than Davonne Bess, who has had his share of off-field issues lately.
Russell Bodine helps the depth issue on the interior of the line immensely, but the Bengals could look for more help along the offensive line. There are many older, prominent guys out there, including familiar faces in Travelle Wharton and Dennis Roland. Cincinnati had Uche Nwaneri in for a visit during free agency and he is still available as well.
I don't see the defensive side of the ball having as many possibilities for the addition of free agents as there could be on offense. They didn't address linebacker until the sixth round this year and some think that that may have been too late. I think the coaches like what they have at these positions though and will only add depth if an injury occurs, as it did frequently in 2013. There are some nice names on the inside linebacker list, but Rey Maualuga seems firmly entrenched there with the occasional spell from Vontaze Burfict.
Defensive linemen in free agency are tricky, as teams want to make sure that they fit their scheme. A lot of the players still available primarily have experience in 3-4 defenses, making them questionable fits in Cincinnati. The Bengals may have been interested in Anthony Spencer if he had slipped by unsigned after the Draft, by Dallas scooped him back up recently.
With the first round selection of Darqueze Dennard and other late-round/undrfated additions to the secondary, it's hard to see more being signed. Again, this route could be tapped if injuries occur and with the available names on the list, any of the signed would be nothing more than a band-aid. They are older and would likely come with one or two-year deals at most.
The Cincinnati Bengals are pretty set on every facet on special teams. T.J. Conley was signed as an extra body and insurance policy in case Kevin Huber suffers any setbacks, and the team already has their other major specialists locked up.
There is only one caveat and that could come with a position that I mentioned earlier. The Bengals need to find a solution to the loss of Hawkins--not only in the slot, but on special teams. Hawkins was an outstanding gunner on the outside for punt coverage and finding someone to carry that torch is important. That person may or may not already be on the roster, so the coaching staff may take one more look over the free agent market.
WILL THEY OR WON'T THEY?
If you're hoping for notable moves, that won't happen at this stage in the game. They bring in a player who has a relatively big name, but is a shell of their former self, a la James Harrison last year. I don't see them throwing out big money now, not only because of who is left, but also because of the contracts they still have yet to work out.
Right now, fullback, tight end and help on both lines remain the likeliest possibilities. It is important to note that the Bengals have made some of their recent significant signings late in the game. Both Harrison and Terence Newman were signed just days before the draft and some others have come after. Don't expect them to be uber-active all of a sudden, but they might make a few more moves to deepen certain positions.