Defensive end is an area of major questions for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017. There are multiple ways to address the issue before the season starts, but not every solution will produce the same results.
One solution that could have an immediate impact is putting together a trade for Jets’ defensive end Sheldon Richardson, who is, according to nj.com, one of the most likely trade candidates for the Jets in 2017.
The Bengals could solve their dilemma at defensive end by drafting and developing talent in the 2017 NFL Draft. In fact, that is what they will most likely try to do. But, the Bengals know as well as any other team how long it can take for young talent to develop. If the Bengals want an immediate impact on defense, trading for an already developed player seems like the most fruitful move.
While Carlos Dunlap is, without a doubt, one of the best players at the position in the NFL, the Bengals need more than just one solid defensive end. Michael Johnson has held down the other starting position for a few years, but he hasn’t been a particularly effective player since returning to the team in 2015 after a year away in Tampa Bay. The Bengals also employ Wallace Gilberry and Will Clarke on the roster, but neither are expected to take over full-time starting duties anytime soon.
In the draft, there are a multitude of high-end prospects for the Bengals to choose from. Guys like Derek Barnett, Solomon Thomas, and Taco Charlton could all be available when the Bengals pick at No. 9. But those guys will likely be minimal contributors at best in 2017, making a seasoned veteran acquired via trade very valuable.
That is where Richardson comes in. Throughout his first three years in the NFL, Richardson was one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. In 2014, he received a Pro Bowl berth for his efforts and a stat-line of 42 tackles, eight sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a pass deflection.
Unfortunately, he missed a significant amount of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He missed time in 2016 as well due to personal conduct issues and hasn’t quite looked like the same player since. Still, he has the potential to be a top defensive end. If the Jets are, in fact, planning to trade him, his off-field issues could lead to a drastic drop in trade value, making him a more reasonable target for a team like the Bengals.
There is a good chance the Bengals would be able to ship a third round pick to the Jets for Richardson, especially considering his contract is up in 2018. The trade would essentially be a rental for the Bengals, would then decide whether or not he is worth extending in 2018 and beyond, based on his performance in 2017. It would allow the Bengals the flexibility of giving a proven veteran a chance to make his mark with the team while not getting caught up in the mess of committing to that player long-term.
There have already been previous rumors of the Jets considering a trade that would center around sending Richardson to the Bengals for AJ McCarron. Perhaps the player-for-player swap would be enough for the quarterback-needy Jets to ship Richardson to Cincinnati.
In the long run, the Bengals are probably better off drafting a defensive end in this year’s draft and developing him in their system. However, that strategy is unlikely to help much in 2017, so bringing in the 26-year old Richardson could allow the Bengals to immediately upgrade the position while potentially allowing a young draftee to develop as a backup while Richardson holds down a starting position.