The Bengals are never active in the free agency market nor do they go after the top targets - and I agree with their approach. However, I believe there is one upper level free agent the Bengals should target this offseason. If the Bengals are smart, they will focus their free agency efforts on one player and one player only - Terrance Knighton of the Denver Broncos. While the rest of the NFL is chasing after the huge names on the 2015 market - Ndamukong Suh, Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, DeMarco Murray, Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, etc. - the Bengals should set their sights on a slightly lesser name, but a great fit and arguably the best run stuffer in the league.
But, why chase a run stuffer when the Bengals problem is rushing the passer? Simple, Knighton improves both the run and the pass defense. He demands a double team, clogs the running lanes and allows the other lineman to get one-on-one attention. With Knighton next to Geno Atkins, only one can be double teamed and as a result of his size and power, that would likely be Knighton, freeing Atkins up to do what he does best, put pressure on the quarterback. With Atkins and Knighton in the middle, the focus of the line would be on the two tackles, allowing more one-on-one opportunities for Carlos Dunlap and guys like Margus Hunt, thereby making the ends more effective as well. Lastly, a massive body like Knighton keeps the lineman from getting to the second level and taking out the linebackers, thereby making the linebackers more effective as well.
Knighton has said he would like to stay in Denver and would be willing to do so for less money, but when the doors of free agency open, the Broncos are going to be busy talking with Peyton Manning and trying to keep guys like Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and maybe Wes Welker; Knighton is likely to be lower on their list of priorities. And, with the Bengals having few key players hitting the market, combined with the fact that the rest of the league will be tripping over themselves trying to sign Suh, the Bengals will have an opportunity to swoop in and land Knighton - not as sexy of a signing, but a perfect fit.
When Marvin Lewis had his record setting defense in Baltimore, one of the keys to the defense was the run stuffer he had in the middle (Sam Adams). Lewis has never had that in Cincinnati, but it's not due to lack of effort. Lewis has been chasing a run stuffing defensive tackle since he got to Cincinnati but hasn't been able to find one that is not past him prime, unhealthy or both. He tried Adams himself, but he was too old and out of shape. He tried signing Daryl Gardener back in 2004 - after the contract offer to Warren Sapp was taken off the table - but Gardener's chronic back issues caused him to retire before ever suiting up. He also tried landing mammoth Shaun Rogers. With Knighton, Lewis can finally get the run stuffer he has always desired. At 28, Knighton should have a few productive years left and if the Bengals could land Knighton and simply re-sign Clint Boling and Emmanuel Lamur, I would consider that an A+ free agency period - regardless of what else they did or did not do.