Pro Football Focus is getting football fans ready for the most exciting part of the season for every team, the offseason.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an Eagles fan or a Browns fan, because in the offseason, everyone has hope. They have taken a look at the Bengals’ free agent class, available cap space and players they should look at in free agency. Let’s start off with the most exciting part first.
Andrew Norwell, guard, Carolina Panthers
While left guard Clint Boling (75.6 overall grade) held his own in 2017, the same couldn’t be said for his compliment Trey Hopkins, as the Bengals right guard earned a 48.4 overall grade across 707 offensive snaps in 2017. With that being said, pairing Boling with Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell could be the solution needed to help sure up Cincinnati’s interior offensive line.
Norwell, PFF’s All-Pro left guard this past season, allowed just 13 hurries in pass protection and earned the fourth-lowest percentage of negatively graded run blocks en route to a career-high 88.8 overall grade in 2017. With four years of high-level play under his belt, Norwell is one of the safest – if not the safest – free agent currently available.
They sure nailed down what the Bengals look for in a free agent target, and that is how safe of a move it would be to bring them in. Norwell would be a great signing, and he would be quite the upgrade.
If I had to guess, though, I’d imagine the Bengals are looking for Alex Redmond or Christian Westerman to compete for that role with Trey Hopkins after the young interior linemen played fairly well down the stretch. Although, I’m all for bringing in as much competition along the offensive line as humanly possible.
Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis promised us the team would take a more modern approach to building a team by trying to acquire outside players a little more often. Brown also backtracked from that slightly later in the offseason.
Basically, we will probably have to wait and see what the Bengals do exactly, but anyone expecting them to go out and bring in one of the top free agents available will be disappointed.
The Bengals will probably have to look at outside free agents more this offseason though considering how weak their unrestricted free agent class is. In fact Pro Football focus says the Bengals don’t have anyone that they must re-sign. They even labeled Tyler Eifert as “damaged goods.”
I’d go as far to say as the Bengals should make a one-year offer to Eifert, but if he signs elsewhere the team should be able to find another tight end in free agency or even the draft. It is doubtful they will produce as much of a mismatch as Eifert did, but they will probably do a better job at staying on the field. I don’t think Tyler Kroft is the answer at the position considering how nonexistent he seemed outside of the red zone.
The rest of the Bengals free agents can walk without issue. Although it’d make sense to re-sign Kevin Huber. Players like Jeremy Hill and Russell Bodine, who have struggled for the Bengals, should be allowed to try and revive their careers elsewhere in the league.
The Bengals will be working with the 13th most cap space in the NFL ($35.6 million) going into the offseason. This is subject to change as many teams will likely be cutting players to create more cap space.
That is something the Bengals have been reluctant to do, but parting ways with players like Adam Jones and Michael Johnson would create roughly $13 million in cap space to work with. This would leave plenty of space for the Bengals to extend Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap as well as bring in several free agents.
Two names that Pro Football Focus offers up are offensive tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver Paul Richardson.
Solder has been the Patriots longtime left tackle, but at the age of 30, the team could decide to move on. He could prove to be a huge improvement over Cedric Ogbuehi. Even if the team is holding out hope for the young tackle still, Solder would be a great insurance policy.
Richardson is the prime bargain bin free agent for the Bengals. He didn’t have a lot of opportunities to show what he can do in Seattle due to injuries, but last season he posted solid numbers. The Bengals could look to add him to the roster and let the aging Brandon LaFell walk after he struggled to put up decent numbers in 2017.
It is also interesting that Pro Football Focus is listing receiver as a need for the Bengals and not linebacker. The Bengals receivers outside of Green did struggle, but I think most fans are banking on a healthy John Ross to fix that issue.
The Bengals would be smart to add a player like Richardson as well. If we learned anything from the Super Bowl this year, it is that any quarterback with enough talent around him can produce.