When it comes to the Bengals' pass-rush , Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are a force to be reckoned with.
After finishing dead last in sacks in 2014, Cincinnati's defense once again became a unit that terrorized opposing quarterbacks in 2015 thanks to those two, especially Dunlap as he continued to ascend into the elite tier of NFL pass-rushers.
But having depth at end as well as another quality pass-rusher in Johnson opposite of Dunlap helped Dunlap to get more favorable matchups throughout 2015, whereas 2014 saw him face more double-teams without MJ. Once Johnson returned to the Queen City after a one-year hiatus of sorts in Tampa, Dunlap was able to thrive while Johnson was also a respectable rusher who offenses had to game plan for.
But other than those two, there's virtually no other proven pass-rusher on the Bengals. Margus Hunt and Will Clarke haven't shown their ready to start if needed, not to mention make so much as a positive impact as situational players. That's why we're taking a gander at some of the best defensive ends still on the market with just a few weeks left before training camps start opening. It's of note that the Bengals currently only have 89 men on the roster and the offseason limit is 90. So, they likely will be signing another player in the next week.
The Bengals already worked out Dwight Freeney back in May, and you could make a good case for him being one of the best overall players still on the market. Even at 36 years of age, Freeney showed he can still rush the passer last season.
Freeney racked up 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games for the Cardinals in 2015. He's been to seven Pro Bowls and has been named All-Pro three times as one of the best pass-rushers of the past decade.
And while Freeney's numbers in recent years don't look great (9 sacks from 2012-14) a big reason why is a torn quad limited him to just four games with the San Chargers in 2013 before working his way back to full health in 2014.
Once he was healed up, Freeney then signed with the Cardinals last year and had great production as a backup outside linebacker. For the Bengals, he'd be a situational pass-rusher who plays defensive end on passing downs when Johnson or Dunlap need a breather, or maybe have one of those two kick down to tackle to rush the passer while Freeney bursts through off the edge.
But Freeney would only be a situational rusher who wouldn't play the majority of snaps. At best, he's probably able to make up for Gilberry's lost pass-rushing snaps while adding little as a run defender.
The Packers drafted Purdue pass-rusher Mike Neal in the second round of the 2010 draft, but he's been a mixed bag to say the least. In 68 career games, Neal has racked up just 19 sacks, 100 total tackles and three forced fumbles while playing defensive end and outside linebacker.
At 6'3" and 262 pounds, Neal doesn't look like a guy who could hold up as a 4-3 end, but he's actually played as a 3-4 end at times in his career and done alright. He has good strength and can set the edge while providing a pass rush that, while lacking, is still better than anything we've seen from Hunt or Clarke.
Neal was a beast in Green Bay's Wild Card win at Washington, racking up two sacks and a critical forced fumble that swung momentum in favor of the Packers.
Mike Neal sack on Cousins knocks the ball out Packers recover. pic.twitter.com/jTqdpNKc4i— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 10, 2016
Neal also doesn't get pushed around in the run game much.
Given, Neal isn't someone you want as a full 16-game starter like he was in Green Bay, not to mention he's 29 heading into his seventh NFL season. What you see is probably what you'll get, but then again, maybe he's able to utilize his strengths more in the Bengals' defense. He's been playing a variety of roles in Dom Capers' complex 3-4 defense, so maybe working as a tradition 4-3 end is something he would do better at.
It's also worth noting that Neal was named in the Al Jazeera report this offseason for alleged PED use, but those claims have been debunked or look iffy at best, but then again, maybe just having his name in at has led to Neal remaining a free agent into the summer.
After being a rotational body in his first four NFL seasons, George Selvie emerged as a quality pass-rusher with the Cowboys from 2013-14. Selvie racked up 7 sacks in 2013 and 3 more in 2014 to also go with 75 tackles in those two years.
The Giants signed Selvie to a one-year deal in 2015 before he appeared in 12 games (3) starts and managed just 26 tackles, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery. He was a good run-defender, but didn't offer much as a pass-rusher to make you think he'd be a big-impact guy for the Bengals.
Still, at just 29-years-old, Selvie has enough left in the tank to make a positive impact for a team like Cincinnati. He could be in on likely running downs and move to tackle or come out of the game on obvious passing downs.
Here are some of the other top pass-rushers left on the market and who they played for in 2015:
Jeremy Mincey, DE, Cowboys; Age: 32.
Corey Wootton, DE, Lions; Age: 29.
LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Cardinals; Age: 31.
Kroy Biermann, DE, Falcons; Age: 30.
Frank Alexander, DE, Panthers; Age: 26.
Larry English, DE, Buccaneers; Age: 30.
Quanterus Smith, DE, Jaguars; Age: 26.
Phillip Hunt, DE, Saints; Age: 30.
Calvin Pace, OLB/DE, Jets; Age: 36.
Note: Yes, I did intentionally leave Greg Hardy out.