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Bengals defensive depth chart after first wave of free agency

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Where does the Bengals’ defense stand after the first wave of free agency? We review the depth charts for each position group as the NFL Draft nears.

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals

The Bengals have lost a few players on defense from the 2016 roster, but have also added to the unit this offseason in some surprising ways.

Bene Benwikere was brought in to aid the cornerback group while Kevin Minter was just signed to add depth to the linebacker roster. The Bengals also brought back Dre Kirkpatrick on a five-year deal in free agency.

Let’s take a look at the Bengals’ defensive depth chart heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. The defensive depth chart isn’t as easy to decipher as it is on offense. There’s a lot of room for movement as players prove their worth this offseason. That includes 2016 draft picks William Jackson III and Andrew Billings, who could play big roles on the team depending on how they perform this summer. They’ll also need to stay healthy to do that. There’s also Marcus Hardison and Brandon Thompson who are returning after injury plagued seasons. In fact, Hardison has missed two consecutive seasons (his first two in the NFL) due to injury.

The cornerback group has a lot of talent and it will be up to the players on the roster to change or prove this depth chart wrong. The same goes at linebacker and defensive tackle, where there’s less overall talent toward the bottom of the groups, but still many players competing for playing time.

Free Agency Losses:

  • Nose Tackle Domata Peko
  • Defensive End Margus Hunt
  • Linebacker Karlos Dansby

Free Agency Gains:

  • Cornerback Bene Benwikere
  • Linebacker Kevin Minter

Here’s a look at the current depth chart for the Bengals’ defense:

Cornerback

  • Dre Kirkpatrick
  • Adam Jones
  • Josh Shaw
  • Darqueze Dennard
  • William Jackson III
  • Bene Benwikere
  • KeiVarae Russell
  • Tony McRae

Free Safety

  • George Iloka
  • Derron Smith

Strong Safety

  • Shawn Williams
  • Clayton Fejedelem

Linebacker

  • Vontaze Burfict
  • Nick Vigil
  • Kevin Minter
  • Vincent Rey
  • Rey Maualuga
  • Marquis Flowers
  • P.J. Dawson
  • Bryson Albright

Defensive End

  • Carlos Dunlap
  • Michael Johnson
  • Will Clarke
  • Ryan Brown

Defensive Tackle

  • Geno Atkins
  • Pat Sims
  • Andrew Billings
  • Brandon Thompson
  • DeShawn Williams
  • Marcus Hardison
  • David Dean

The Bengals’ biggest needs seem to be at linebacker and defensive end. At linebacker, there’s a good quantity of players currently signed, but, the quality needs improvement, even after inking Minter to a deal this week. At defensive end, there’s a need for bodies and talent. With Hunt departed and the position being a weakness already in 2016, improvement is highly important for the defensive ends to help the Bengals rebound from the 6-9-1 record achieved in 2016 and get back to winning in 2017.

11 draft picks in 2017 will make this offseason interesting and should put many of these players on the roster bubble in late summer.