A big offseason is coming up for the Bengals.
Part of that is due to the unprecedented 11 draft picks the Bengals are set to have in the 2017 NFL Draft. For a team that usually keeps most, if not all of their draft picks on the 53-man roster for their rookie year, that means quite a few new players could be on the opening day roster next season.
The Bengals also have quite a few potential vacancies that could be left by impending free agents who’ve played major roles for several years now. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler have helped anchor what was one of the NFL’s best offensive lines before the unit took a step back in 2016. Even so, those two were still among the best players at their respective positions this season, and losing either one of them would be a huge loss.
Then there’s defensive starters Domata Peko and Dre Kirkpatrick who are also set to hit free agency. Losing one or both of them would likely lead to some new names taking on bigger roles in 2017.
But as much change as there could be, most of those guys could easily end up being re-signed, which is why the Bengals are right in the middle of ESPN’s ranking of the NFL teams set for a rebuild.
15. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals began a bit of a roster overhaul last offseason, when receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left in free agency. They could part this offseason with veterans on offense such as tackles Andrew Whitworth and Eric Winston. A youth movement on defense is what the Bengals need most. Cincinnati had the NFL's second-oldest starting defense in 2016.
How much of an actual rebuild this team goes through remains to be seen. There could end up being not much change at all, or there could be a major overhaul that has the Bengals looking very different in 2017.
We do know the large majority of key players will be back. That includes Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Clint Boling, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Josh Shaw, Darqueze Dennard, Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict, George Iloka and Shawn Williams, to name a few. Cody Core, Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Kroft, Russell Bodine, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Derron Smith, Rey Maualuga, Pat Sims, Will Clarke and Michael Johnson all remain under contract, too. That’s 27 guys right there who made an impact in 2016 and figure to be on the roster in 2017. Though, if the Bengals really are going to take on a mini-rebuild, guys like Maualuga, Sims and Johnson could be on the chopping block.
That’s why Cincinnati is ranked in the middle, mostly because there’s so much of an unknown factor with the team prior to the start of free agency and the NFL Draft. So much can change in the coming months, so let’s just hope this offseason turns into more of a reload than a rebuild for the coming season.