It is rare you see a a national media writer get the Bengals so well, but by the way Bill Barnwell listed his five ways to improve the Bengals this offseason, you would have thought that he watched every game.
Although, it may be more that the Bengals are such an obvious trainwreck prior to the offseason, but I’m willing to give Barnwell the credit.
Here are his ways to help the Bengals.
1. Decline the options for Adam Jones and Cedric Ogbuehi.
It’s time for the Bengals to move on from the 34-year-old Jones, who has slipped during his current deal and would be holding back promising former first-round pick William Jackson III... As for Ogbuehi, the experiment to move on from Andrew Whitworth and install the 2015 first-rounder at left tackle went about as bad as anyone could have imagined.
The only player I’d add to this is also parting ways with Michael Johnson and signing Chris Smith. By getting rid of Jones and Johnson the Bengals will create roughly $13 million in cap space, and both players are clearly on the decline of their careers with young guys waiting to take their spots.
As for Ogbuehi, I’m not sure how you could justify his fifth year option. He would become one of the higher paid players on the team in 2019, but he has played like one of the worst. The chance he somehow turns it around this season is far to small to risk that much on it.
2. Find a left tackle (or a left guard)
The best option for the left tackle spot on the current roster might be guard Clint Boling, who moved outside for an injured Ogbuehi in the final two games of the year and looked good in a pair of upset victories for Cincinnati. You figure the Bengals would probably prefer to stick with Boling at guard given the scarcity of tackle options on the free-agent market, but unless Cincinnati uses its first-round pick on a tackle like Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey or Texas’ Connor Williams, the Bengals might start Boling at tackle and use a second- or third-round pick to grab a guard.
I would feel very bad about the plan of starting Clint Boling at left tackle for a full season. He had some good games near the end of the season, but we shouldn’t dwell on that. It is very likely the Bengals select one of the guys Barnwell listed at 12, and we avoid that scenario altogether.
I wish I could say I was as confident that the Bengals would sign a possible left tackle in free agency, but we all know we can’t be confident in that. The draft is far deeper with interior linemen than tackles though, so unfortunately we could see this happen.
3. Find a center, too
One solution would be to move Fisher to center, a spot where the Bengals gave him reps in advance of the 2016 season, but one he hasn’t played at the college or professional levels. (It’s telling that this seems like the best option!) While general manager Mike Brown seems to avoid free agency as if it’s the plague, the Bengals could strike a blow against a division rival by making a big offer for Ravens center Ryan Jensen. More likely, though, is that the Bengals will draft a center and have him compete with Fisher.
I’m not sure where the fascination of putting Fisher at center came from, but that is such an unknown to base an offseason on. The Bengals should be looking at Billy Price or Isaiah Wynn in the second round. Either of those guys would be an instant upgrade at the center position. Still disappointed we didn’t get to see any Christian Westerman at center over the last two regular season games, but I would add him to the competition as well.
4. Re-sign Geno Atkins, Darqueze Dennard and Carlos Dunlap
Atkins and Dunlap are obvious candidates for extensions... Dennard is a slightly more difficult decision, and as he enters the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, Cincinnati might let its former first-round pick play things out and see if he impresses again as a slot cornerback. The Bengals are famously slow to bring their cornerbacks along, and Dennard has played only 1,409 defensive snaps in his first four seasons in the league. The Bills’ impressive first-rounder Tre’Davious White, by comparison, played 1,052 defensive snaps during his rookie season last year.
We have already heard that the Bengals plan to make it a priority to re-sign Atkins and Dunlap this offseason. It seems to be their biggest excuse to not go out into free agency because somehow they won’t have any room left to sign their guys. It won’t take $30 million in cap space to retain two guys.
Dennard is a new name, and it is interesting Barnwell shows interest in him. However, considering how he has this offseason playing out, the Bengals would already be without Jones. They can’t lose Jones and then Dennard in two offseasons. The NFL isn’t a league where you can get by with only two corners anymore.
5. Find a backup quarterback
The Bengals will have plenty of picks -- they have every one of their own selections before the seventh round and are projected to claim the maximum of four comp picks, including selections in the third and fifth rounds of this year’s draft. With Jeff Driskel looming as the only backup on the roster behind the Red Rifle, Cincinnati will likely draft a passer.
Remember what the Bengals did with McCarron?
They picked him up in the fifth round. Expect them to select a quarterback in a similar range. Get all the dreams and fantasies of the Bengals snagging a top five quarterback in the first round.
It is also not out of the question they sign a free agent quarterback after the market dries up a little bit. Again, don’t expect anyone major, but a guy like Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton or Geno Smith could end up on the roster as well, not that those are anymore exciting than a fifth-round quarterback.