During the past several years the Bengals have lost several key contributors, which has led —in part — to the team’s recent struggles. With quite a few starters set to have their contracts run up after this season, the Bengals will likely be looking at the loss of at least one or two of those players. How the season goes will be a huge determining factor in who stays with the Bengals and who goes off to a new team next year. The Bengals will also be making an effort to extend some of these players before the season, so guys like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are on the list, but it’s far more likely they remain in Cincinnati than guys like Michael Johnson and C.J. Uzomah.
Here’s a list of the Bengals’ 2019 free agents:
Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Tyler Eifert, Michael Johnson, Brandon LaFell, Preston Brown, Vincent Rey, Chris Baker, Cedric Ogbuehi, Darqueze Dennard, T.J. Johnson, Clark Harris, Jake Fisher, Bobby Hart, Randy Bullock, Tyler Kroft, Josh Shaw, C.J. Uzomah
And here are the top five (but really seven) guys who could be playing their final year in Cincinnati.
1. Michael Johnson
Johnson has been a solid player for most of his career in Cincinnati, however he has not been quite as good since he left for Tampa Bay and then returned a year later. In the past two drafts the Bengals drafted three defensive ends, if you count Carl Lawson who spends most of his snaps on the line. If those players continue to develop then it seems even more likely that Johnson will no longer be on the team at this time next year. He may be able to extend his career by moving primarily to an inside role, but that still might not be in Cincinnati.
2. C.J. Uzomah
The Bengals drafted Tyler Kroft and Uzomah in the same draft and have always seemed to prefer the higher drafted Kroft. Uzomah was very raw coming out of college and has not really developed into the weapon that he could have been. The team may look to extend Tyler Kroft this offseason and Tyler Eifert signed on for one more year already earlier this year, but is also a free agent in 2019. Uzomah feels like the odd man out in the group and may have to continue his career with a different team. That could change depending on the outcome of this season though.
3. Tyler Kroft/Tyler Eifert
This situation seems like a one guy in, one guy out scenario. If Eifert manages to stay healthy and balls out then it seems likely the Bengals attempt to bring him back. However, if Eifert isn’t healthy and Kroft is the Bengals’ primary tight end then he is likely the one the Bengals will focus on bringing back to the team. If the Bengals don’t want to gamble on Eifert, they could look to extend Kroft before the 2018 season begins.
4. Darqueze Dennard
Dre Kirkpatrick was recently extended by the Bengals and it seems unlikely he will be released any time soon. With William Jackson III emerging as a great player, the cornerback room is looking pretty crowded, which will happen when you draft cornerbacks in the first round three times in a five year span. The Bengals will be looking toward the future and will know they can’t afford to pay all three of their cornerbacks big money. Because of that, Dennard may get the short end of the stick and will be learning a new playbook at this time next year.
5. Geno Atkins/Carlos Dunlap
No one wants either Atkins or Dunlap to ever leave Cincinnati, but the cold, hard reality of a league with a salary cap is that sometimes players who you don’t want to leave, end up leaving. The Bengals will be working hard before the season to get these contracts done and it will be very tough considering the defensive end and defensive tackle markets are in flux right now. Both guys are on great bargains of contracts this season and the Bengals will be lucky to even get close to a similar deal with their new contracts.