The Bengals have added a few new names to the team through free agency and trades. They have also seen several of their players’ contracts expire and sign elsewhere. There has been a lot of movement along the roster but maybe the most important change is the one at center, with a starting job that needs to be filled. Russell Bodine is gone and the Bengals’ top need may now be at the center position, a position that has seen serious struggles over the last four years and now is in need of a new starter to boost the offensive line.
With the major part of free agency out of the way, this is where the Bengals currently stand at each position as we head into the NFL Draft in less than one month.
The Bengals showed their confidence in Andy Dalton about as clearly as possible when they traded down in the draft. The team brought in veteran Matt Barkley to join Jeff Driskel as Dalton’s backups. The Bengals have a lot of draft picks and could still take a shot if a quarterback they hold in high regard is available on the last day of the draft. The Bengals have been scouting quarterbacks all over the country, so don’t count them out of the race to draft a quarterback, though, it likely will come on Day 3.
With any luck, the 2018 season will be the Joe Mixon show in the Bengals’ backfield, while also featuring a heavy dose of Giovani Bernard. If the team looks to add another back it will likely be late in the draft and someone who can also contribute on special teams.
A.J. Green is still one of the top talents in the league, but the Bengals have yet to establish the rest of this group. They invested heavily in the position in the last two drafts and are hoping to see John Ross, Tyler Boyd, and Josh Malone all step up in 2018. How heavily they invest in this position will provide insight to how they feel about this trio. If they do acquire a receiver it will likely be a mid-round or late draft pick with a lot of upside. Don’t expect the Bengals to sign any free agent wide receivers.
Re-signing Tyler Eifert would seem like the first and last move the team would make at this position, but that may not be the case. Eifert was only signed to a one-year deal and fellow tight ends Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah also have contracts that expire following the season. Although it could get to be a crowded position, the Bengals could look to the draft for an eventual replacement for one of these guys. Given the need at other positions, the probably wouldn’t look to add a tight end until the mid rounds of the draft.
While the team recently traded for left tackle Cordy Glenn, offensive linemen remain the Bengals’ biggest need. Right tackle remains a question mark and the Bengals appear to be showing strong interest in some of the draft’s top tackles even after trading for Glenn. Cedric Ogbuehi’s contract situation makes it highly unlikely that the team will let him go before the end of his rookie deal, but cutting Jake Fisher is not entirely out of the question. The team could look to add another tackle in the first or second round of the draft and move on from Fisher. After bringing in both Glenn and Bobby Hart, it is unlikely that the Bengals will add another veteran offensive tackle in free agency.
Clint Boling was probably the best player on the Bengals’ offensive line last year, so the left guard position is in pretty good shape, but the team could improve at right guard. Moving back to 21st overall in the draft puts them in great position to take the top offensive guard left on their board. Adding a veteran guard through free agency is also an option, though based on the remaining players that person would likely be just a backup.
Losing Bodine in free agency creates the need for a center who can come in and start immediately. There is T.J. Johnson on the roster as well as some other players with potential to play center, but the Bengals should go out and draft a center in the first three rounds of the draft. It’s possible no center will be drafted in the first round, which means the Bengals will be adding one of the top players at the position in the second or third round. James Daniels, Billy Price and Isaiah Wynn and Frank Ragnow are some names to keep an eye on.
The Bengals added two edge rushers in last year’s draft with Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis. Lawson had a tremendous rookie campaign, while Willis is still a work in progress. They also have two Pro Bowl quality veterans on the defensive line in defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Both have contracts that expire in 2019. At defensive end, the Bengals also lost Chris Smith to the Browns in free agency.
The team needs at least one more defensive tackle, a run stopper; but maybe more importantly they need someone who can rush the passer. Michael Johnson filled the role of the latter at times last season and Dunlap may be able to kick inside and do it as well if Willis can step up as an edge rusher. If Ryan Glasgow continues to develop, he could contribute as a run stopper, but the Bengals may look to add a player to address this role.
They could select a defensive tackle as early as the first round. There are a handful of defensive tackles in the incoming class who have first round potential, and if the right guy falls to them, they might just pull the trigger. Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne are some of the names to look out for there.
It is also possible however that as they did with the defensive end position last year, the Bengals will look to add a defensive tackle in the third or fourth rounds. Chris Baker is likely the biggest free agent move the Bengals will make at this position.
Yes, the Bengals already added Preston Brown, but there will be more additions to come at linebacker. For starters, Brown only has a one-year contract, so it would be a good idea for the team to add a backer to develop behind him. The Bengals are also facing the possibility of starting the season without Vontaze Burfict due to suspension. Nick Vigil continues to develop and 2017 draftee Jordan Evans will likely contribute, but the overall depth and athleticism at the position are concerns. The Bengals could add a linebacker as early as the first round, but will likely address the offensive line first and look to add a backer or two in the mid and late rounds.
The Bengals re-signed Dre Kirkpatrick only last year and William Jackson was extremely impressive in 2017. Darqueze Dennard has only one year remaining on his contract, so the Bengals could look to draft a future nickel corner. While it would make sense to do this in the mid rounds, Kirkpatrick, Williams, and Dennard were all first rounders, so the Bengals may not feel great about looking for a corner that late. If the Bengals look to add a corner through free agency, it will likely be a familiar face in Adam Jones. If he can swallow his pride, coming back for a pay cut could be beneficial to both parties.
The Bengals have three safeties who have played pretty well in George Iloka, Shawn Williams and Clayton Fejedelem. If new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was looking for someone a little rangier, the Bengals could look to add a true free safety in the second to fourth rounds. They may also look to add depth to the position with a later pick. The team may still add a free agent safety as most of the options left on the market will come at a fair price.
The Bengals should be all set at punter after re-signing Kevin Huber. Long snapper and Pro Bowler Clark Harris is also returning in 2018 after a recent contract extension. Kicker could be another story. Randy Bullock beat out Jake Elliott last preseason, but the Bengals could still stand to improve at the position. Bullock’s contract situation would allow the Bengals to bring in another kicker to compete whether it’s through the draft or free agency. And, Duke Tobin said the team is open to drafting another kicker with one of the 11 picks at its disposal.