After a rough 2016 season, the Bengals will require some maintenance for their roster in 2017 to get things back on track. Sure, new personnel and turnover within the organization are a big part of what caused things to be so off-kilter in 2016. But, at the same time, certain units were hampered more so by lack of depth or under-performing starters, rather than new players failing to gel. The Bengals have plenty of opportunity to fix those issues in free agency and the NFL Draft, but which one should be the first priority?
The Bengals drafted Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi in 2015, but neither performed up to expectations in 2016. Eric Winston is a solid backup, but he didn’t perform particularly well in 2016 either. Andrew Whitworth might not even be back next season as he is 35 and nearing the end of his career as a player in the NFL. Therefore, the Bengals might want to add talent to both tackle positions in the offseason to foster competition.
Once healthy, Andrew Billings is the future at this position next to Geno Atkins. But, if he doesn’t develop as expected, the Bengals don’t have any other viable options. Domata Peko severely under-performed in 2016, Pat Sims isn't worthy of cracking the starting lineup and DeShawn Williams might not be ready for the starting lineup. There is an abundance of talent at the defensive tackle position in this year’s draft, so the Bengals might want to use one of their 11 picks at this spot.
Carlos Dunlap has become one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL, and the Bengals saw improvement this season from backup Will Clarke. Furthermore, veteran backup Wallace Gilberry returned to the Bengals in the middle of the season and picked up right where he left off. There is no doubt that there is talent in this area of the team. But, Margus Hunt’s contract is up and doesn’t appear to have done enough to receive an extension. Furthermore, Michael Johnson has underperformed in the starting lineup since returning in 2015. Some fresh talent at this position could do a world of good.
Rey Maualuga could very well become a cap casualty this offseason (scheduled to make $3,150,000 this year). If so, the Bengals could be left with a weakened linebacker corps, especially considering Karlos Dansby is 35 and set to be a free agent. Nick Vigil and Vincent Rey are expected to be solid replacements at their respective positions, but that leaves only Marquis Flowers, P.J. Dawson, and Trevor Roach to shore up the depth. The Bengals might want to find some insurance this offseason to become more athletic at the position.
Despite having so much potential at the running back position, you could argue that this is the weakest area of the team. After a strong rookie season, Jeremy Hill appears to be diving deep down the ranks of NFL running backs. If the Bengals are unable to re-sign Rex Burkhead this offseason, they could be left with Giovani Bernard as the only solid running back left on the team. In addition to a few free agents, the Bengals will have the pick of the litter in the draft and could target a solid player like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, or Alvin Kamara.
With that considered, what should the Bengals' top priority be this offseason? Let us know in the poll below, and voice your thoughts in the comments!