The departures of Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Emmanuel Lamur, as well as the uncertainty surrounding players like Reggie Nelson, Leon Hall, Wallace Gilberry and Brandon Thompson leave some glaring needs on the Bengals' roster.
Following their very active first week of free agency, where they re-signed players like Adam Jones, George Iloka, Vinny Rey and Eric Winston, there are still some positions that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. At this point, the Bengals have earned the right to receive the benefit of the doubt when it comes to roster building. Still, these are the top five areas that they need to address:
Any Bengals fan who hasn't been living in a cave over the past week probably knows Marvin Jones signed a massive contract with the Detroit Lions and Mohamed Sanu signed a similarly sizeable deal with the Atlanta Falcons. You probably don't need me to tell you, that creates two huge holes on the offense. Since arriving in 2012, the pair have combined for 286 receptions, 3,522 yards, and 26 touchdowns. Alongside A.J. Green, there is hope that James Wright can help to fill one of these vacant roles. However, providing he pans out, that still only fills one of the two gaping wide receiver holes.
How to fill the need: Taking the best available wide receiver in the first round, maybe Josh Doctson out of TCU or Corey Coleman out of Baylor is a popular idea. There are other options at receiver like Tyler Boyd or Braxton Miller later in the draft if the Bengals decide they want to look at a different position in the first round. My recommendation would be the hard-working and unselfish Doctson.
Even though the Bengals recently re-signed Pat Sims, they have had a problem with depth at the position for quite some time. Potentially losing Brandon Thompson this offseason doesn't help that matter. Thompson was never the most prolific player on the team and has produced the stat line of a career backup, but up until his knee injury in Week 17 against the Ravens, he was one of the most reliable backups the team had at the position. Domata Peko is 31-years-old and not consistently effective. Geno Atkins needs some help up front, so the team should definitely look at finding him a partner in crime.
How to fill the need: The Bengals missed their chance to sign Nick Fairley in free agency last year, but he's back on the market after spending a year with the Rams. At only 28-years-old, Fairley could be a strong player to stick next to Geno Atkins. Ndamukong Suh and he were an incredible tandem in Detroit, and he helped Aaron Donald to a career year in St. Louis in 2015. Alternatively, Kenny Clark out of UCLA has been compared quite a bit to Peko and wouldn't be a bad pickup in the draft.
Losing Emmanuel Lamur but re-signing Vincent Rey means the linebacker position might not have as big of a depth need as it seemed like it would had the team lost both players. Still, the Bengals will miss the starting experience of Lamur and will have a fairly significant role to fill in his absence. P.J. Dawson seems to be the logical choice to replace him on the depth chart, but, shoring up the depth is necessary.
How to fill the need: The later rounds of the draft or even a priority free agent could really be helpful to patch up this position. Vontaze Burfict and Lamur were both undrafted players, after all. The Bengals have already met with Kentucky linebacker and potential undrafted free agent, Josh Forrest. He could be just the kind of young, hungry player they're looking for to round out their roster. But, if they were thinking about looking in the mid-rounds of the draft, Deion Jones out of LSU could be a good pickup in the third or fourth round.
This position might not be as big of a need as it seems with the team reportedly moving on from Reggie Nelson. He's easily the best safety left on the free agent market, but the Bengals have an effective young future starter in Shawn Williams. It would be a really good idea for the Bengals to re-sign Nelson, especially considering the lack of buzz he's received lately. But, if they don't, there are other options.
How to fill the need: If the Bengals are looking to go younger at the position by moving on from Nelson, they should look to the draft. Nelson is 32-years-old, but as a safety he probably has another three to four good year left in his career. Therefore, trying to pick up a younger free agent who is probably already anywhere from 26 to 30-years-old wouldn't really help much. In the draft, they should look at taking Darian Thompson in the third or fourth round. Thompson is a ballhawk with the work ethic to become a strong contributor at the NFL level.
Bengals fans are getting tired of Russell Bodine's below average play at the center position on the offensive line. Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, and Clint Boling help to keep the offensive line functioning as one of the better units in the NFL. However, Bodine and Andre Smith have been hurting the offensive line. They seem to be moving on from Smith after taking two tackles early in last year's draft. With him reportedly visiting other teams as a free agent, it would be a shock to see him come back. However, that still leaves a huge problem at center that the team needs to address soon.
How to fill the need: The Bengals really have their pick of the litter here. There are talented free agents like Jacksonville's Stefan Wisniewski and New England's Ryan Wendell. Wisniewski is only 26, so they could stay young at the position while still making a major upgrade. If they want to look to the draft, they could find a high value pick like Nick Martin in the second round or Evan Boehm in the fifth.