The Bengals have been hit hard in free agency as three starters have left the team and two backups have done the same (so far).
Not many teams have lost as many key players, especially without bringing in impressive outside talent. So far, the Bengals have re-signed Brandon LaFell, Dre Kirkpatrick and Eric Winston, while bringing back Andre Smith after a one-year departure from the team.
Meanwhile, Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, Domata Peko, Rex Burkhead, Margus Hunt and Karlos Dansby have moved on to new teams.
ESPN ranked the five teams that have regressed the most since the start of free agency, and the Bengals came in at No. 2. on the list.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
Biggest losses: G Kevin Zeitler, OT, Andrew Whitworth, DT Domata Peko, RB Rex Burkhead
The Bengals' offense never recovered from the free-agent losses of wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu last season. They lost close to six points per game off their average on offense (26.2 to 20.3). Now, the Bengals' offensive line has lost its two best blockers, Zeitler and Whitworth, which will make it even tougher for quarterback Andy Dalton to succeed. Cincinnati has brought back Andre Smith to compete with draft picks Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi at tackle, but that's a clear downgrade from Whitworth. The Bengals' five-year playoff streak was snapped in 2016, and I think they've declined again. They need to hit on the No. 9 overall pick.
ESPN ranked the Raiders at No. 1 overall as the team that has regressed the most after losing linebacker Malcolm Smith, defensive tackle Stacy Mcgee, offensive tackle Menelik Watson and cornerback D.J. Hayden. The Cardinals, Browns and Packers round out the top five. The key players the Cardinals have lost are defensive end Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson, safety D.J. Swearinger, cornerback Marcus Cooper and offensive tackle Earl Watford. The Browns have lost safety Jordan Poyer, wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., quarterback Robert Griffin III and quarterback Josh McCown. And, the Packers have lost guard T.J. Lang, safety Micah Hyde, center JC Tretter, running back Eddie Lacy and outside linebacker Julius Peppers.
With 11 draft picks coming and some limited funds remaining to be spent in free agency, hopefully the Bengals make some additions to ensure the roster gets better. And it needs to not only improve from where it stands now, but also from where it was in 2016. The Bengals should be doing everything they can to do better this season than the 6-9-1 record achieved last season. It’s time to get to work and not rest on a situation that clearly has some players (like Carlos Dunlap) concerned.