The Bengals have made quite a few moves in the opening weeks of free agency, which was kind of surprising. We have seen them bring on several free agents so far during free agency as well as a few names still without a deal.
What does the roster look like right now though after all of these changes?
Quarterback: Andy Dalton, Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel
The quarterback situation is more about looking for a backup behind Dalton. Barkley and Driskel obviously won’t be nipping at Dalton’s ankles anytime soon. The Bengals could still end up using a draft pick on the position if a quarterback they covet falls far enough, pretty similar to how AJ McCarron became a Bengal.
Running back: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Brian Hill, Tra Carson and Jarveon Williams
Many fans and a few national writers feel the Bengals will end up trying to replace Jeremy Hill who left via free agency. I don’t think they will end up trying that hard. They could always spend a Day 3 pick on a running back, but Brian Hill and Tra Carson have both shown enough flashes of talent to warrant a third string spot.
Also, don’t forget that Bernard will be coming into this season healthy instead of fresh off a major knee injury. Plus Mixon really started to come on during the end of the season.
Wide receiver: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Cody Core and Kermit Whitfield
After Green there is a lot of potential at the receiver position for the Bengals, and I think by the time training camp rolls around the Bengals could even add a few more names to this list. Competition will be the name of the game for the receivers next season. Anyone not named Green or Ross will probably have to earn their spot on the roster. If Ross wasn’t a ninth-overall pick, I’d include him as well.
It is clear the Bengals need to upgrade production from this group. When you have a guy like Green getting most of the defense’s attention, then you need the other receivers to be able to beat single coverage consistently.
Tight end: Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Mason Shrek and Orndoff Scott
The Bengals managed to re-sign Eifert to a one-year deal, which is huge if he can manage to stay healthy. Tyler Kroft also gained Dalton’s trust inside the red zone last season, and Uzomah still could make that leap into being a productive receiving tight end.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see the Bengals possibly draft a tight end though. Shrek is the only tight end under contract past next season, and the Bengals may take a tight end just to be sure they don’t end up losing all of their guys.
H-back/Fullback: Ryan Hewitt and Cethan Carter
This position could be in transition. We don’t know a lot about Bill Lazor’s new offense, and how prominently the fullback will be featured. Hewitt remains a valuable player to have though, and I’m sure Lazor will find a way to get him on the field. However, it seems unlikely they will keep two fullbacks next season. Although, it really depends on how much talent is at the bottom of the roster.
Offensive tackle: Cordy Glenn, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Bobby Hart, Justin Murray, Kent Perkins and Leamon Javarius
The biggest offseason move was obviously bringing in Glenn. He solidifies the left tackle position for a team that desperately needed stability there. Now, most people expect the Bengals to draft an offensive tackle early, but I disagree. They could take one in the middle of the draft or later, but the Bengals brought in new offensive line coach Frank Pollack to try and get something out of Fisher or Ogbuehi that we haven’t seen yet. It seems like the team believes he can do it.
Guard: Clint Boling, Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond, Trey Hopkins and Oni Omoile
Boling really did a solid job at left tackle at the end of the season, but his home is at left guard. Now with Glenn next to him the left side looks impenetrable. The same can not be said for the right. Hopkins was the main starter last season, but he didn’t do anything to really impress. The Bengals have a pair of young guards who did some things well in the last two games in Westerman and Redmond, but that won’t discourage the Bengals from drafting a guard if the value is right.
Center: T.J. Johnson
The loss of Russell Bodine is addition by subtraction. Although the Bengals won’t be able to get by with Johnson as the starting center. The Bengals will need to use a pick early on a center who can come in and start for them.
Defensive end: Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Jordan Willis
The Bengals lost Chris Smith to the Brown early in free agency, and the team reportedly wants to use Carl Lawson in more of a linebacker role next season. This means the Bengals will have to bring in another defensive end to keep their rotation alive and well at the defensive end position. We should also see more of Willis without Smith.
Defensive tackles: Geno Atkins, Chris Baker, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow and Josh Tupou
Atkins remains to be one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. The Bengals also have young guys like Billings, Glasgow and Tupou behind him. While the temptation to take a defensive tackle early may be their for the Bengals, it seems like unless Vita Vea makes it to 21 then the Bengals may avoid trying to upgrade the position. The addition of Baker may be enough, according to Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus:
Chris Baker looked like a good fit in Tampa Bay when he signed, but it never worked out that way, and last season was a notable decline in performance from his time in Washington. He had 11 fewer stops than he had in his final season with the Redskins, and 21 fewer than the year before that. His lone sack actually does a good job of illustrating how little he brought as a pass rusher, with only 14 total pressures on the season, 28 fewer than the season before. Baker though had two seasons of quality play before last year and is a good candidate to rediscover his better play after a jolt to the system. He joins a solid defensive line on the Cincinnati Bengals and could prove to be a much better player there than he was for the Bucs.
Linebacker: Vontaze Burfict, Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Carl Lawson, Vincent Rey, Jordan Evans, Hardy Nickerson Jr., Carl Bradford, Brandon Bell and Connor Harris
Brown is one of the biggest outside free agent signings the Bengals have made in a little while. I don’t think he is the ultimate solution to the problems the Bengals currently have at that position, but he is a huge upgrade over relying on young guys to come in. With Burfict set to serve a four-game suspension, we shouldn’t be shocked to see the Bengals draft a linebacker at some point.
Safety: George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Clayton Fejedelem, Brandon Wilson and Robenson Therezie
Iloka and Williams have been a solid safety tandem, but with the rules changing and lack of turnovers, the Bengals may be looking to draft a safety early if the right one falls to them. Iloka is more than just a hard hitting safety though. He is one of the biggest reasons the Bengals don’t give up the big play that often. It feels more like Williams’ job is on the line. Reggie Nelson was know for creating turnovers, and Williams has failed to keep that going since taking over after Nelson’s departure.
Fejedelem is easily the Bengals best special teamer, and it would be nice to see Wilson get a shot at competing for a returning position during the preseason.
Corner: William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw, KeiVarae Russell, Tony McRae, Sojourn Shelton
The Bengals are in a pretty nice position at corner even after not picking up Adam Jones’ option on his contract. Jackson looks like he could end up being one of the best corners in the league in a few seasons. Dennard and Kirkpatrick also looked promising last season. The Bengals could end up drafting a corner with Dennard entering the last year of his rookie deal though. If they did this position could end up being very deep.
Special Teamers: Randy Bullock, Jon Brown, Kevin Huber and Clark Harris
The re-signing of Huber was pretty important. He is by no means the best punter in the NFL, but you could do a lot worse at the position. The kicking competition could be of interest though. Bullock was solid, but the team could look for a kicker who can hit field goals from over 50 yards more consistently.