The Bengals have so many needs that it is impossible to realistically solve them all through the draft. If the Bengals could address some of the team’s needs through free agency, it would make the draft needs more clear and more attainable. The Bengals have been losers in free agency in recent years with the losses of Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones Jr., Kevin Zeitler, and Andrew Whitworth to name a few. It is time for the Bengals to win free agency by bringing in some free agents who can contribute and get the team get back into the playoffs. That doesn’t necessarily mean huge-name players, but, the Bengals need to make a dent in the free agent pool. Here are five positions the Bengals should be targeting and some names who may be of interest.
1. Offensive Tackle
The Bengals’ biggest need is at offensive tackle, where both Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher struggled in 2017. Adding a veteran to shore up at least one of these spots would be a huge win for the team. The Patriots have a pair offensive tackles entering free agency this year who would be an instant upgrade for the Bengals. Nate Solder is the best of the bunch and the only true left tackle, but he turns 30 next month. This may be a positive for the Bengals as the Patriots may focus their efforts on bringing back their younger players, rather than Solder.
Cameron Fleming played an increasingly large role for the Patriots over the past two seasons. He often came in as a sixth lineman in heavy sets, but started games at right tackle as well. He is big game tested, having started in the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl this year. Chris Hubbard has started a handful of games at right tackle for the Steelers over the past couple of seasons and always looked impressive. Signing Hubbard comes with the added advantage of taking a good player away from the Steelers.
What the Bengals really need at the linebacker position is a middle linebacker, but the free agent options are better at outside linebacker. One such option is Tahir Whitehead who had 110 tackles playing for new Bengals’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin with the Lions last season. Whitehead is only 27-years-old and would give the unit an instant athletic upgrade. Fresh off a Super Bowl win, Nigel Bradham is another interesting option. Bradham has been a big part of the Eagles’ defense over the last two seasons and had 88 tackles during the 2017 campaign. Although his experience is at outside linebacker, Bradham has the physical traits that could make him translate well as a middle linebacker.
3. Tight End
The best tight end option in free agency is a healthy Tyler Eifert. Eifert is the second best receiving option the Bengals have employed over the past few years, and having that kind of threat at tight end really opens up the offense. If the Bengals brought back Eifert and he managed to stay healthy it would be huge for the team moving forward. There are also a couple of pretty good outside options. After facing some personal demons off the field Austin Seferian-Jenkins has re-committed himself to football and looks like a changed man. Seferian-Jenkins has the ability to be a top flight NFL player and the Bengals need a tight end who can contribute in the pass game. This would be a great fit. Coming off a Super Bowl run, the Eagles are not expected to bring back Trey Burton. Burton was the team’s second tight end, but contributed throughout the season and really stepped up when Zach Ertz was out with injury. Burton is a solid receiving threat who will be a good starting tight end for someone in 2018.
The Bengals’ own Russell Bodine enters free agency this year and although the center has struggled since his rookie season the team says it is committed to bringing him back. If this does not pan out, there are a couple of other options out there that could provide them with an upgrade. Weston Richburg has gotten somewhat mixed reviews in his time with the Giants. In his second NFL season, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the league’s second best center, but as the Giants’ offensive line has struggled over the past two years, opinions of Richburg seem to have declined as well. A move to Cincinnati could be just what the doctor ordered to get Richburg back on track. If he can play to his potential, the Bengals would be improving at the position, which could pay major dividends for the rest of the offense. Another option would be Ravens center Ryan Jensen. The former practice squad player earned a starting role with Baltimore last season. He did not dominate the competition, but he played well and has the tenacity to compete as an interior offensive linemen.
5. Defensive Tackle
There are not a lot of great options available in free agency at defensive tackle this year. The Bengals have already signed Chris Baker. Signing Baker was not exactly an epic move for the team, but he does have a lot of upside and it could be a sneaky-good pickup. Another intriguing option is Sheldon Richardson. Richardson could really solidify the defensive line, but he would come with a big price tag. This position may be done being addressed in free agency following Baker’s signing.