The Rams are heading to the NFC Championship game armed with Zac Taylor at quarterbacks’ coach... and I suppose Sean McVay at head coach as well. With a matchup against the Saints on Sunday, Bengals fans will be waiting at least another week to see if Taylor will officially become the Cincinnati’s first head coach not named Marvin Lewis in 16 years.
In the meantime, we can speculate how this offseason could unfold with a new name leading the team. The first thing that comes to mind is free agency. Will their approach transform under a new coach? Is the franchise ready to dish out more guaranteed money for external players?
Perhaps the one aspect that should lead this discussion is if Taylor will try and bring in some of his former players from Los Angeles who happen to have expired contracts and find themselves on the open market. This would present an ideal way to add players who know at least a version of his system as well as how he wants to run the team. It could make his job easier as these free agents could be a mentor of sorts to the younger guys.
How the Bengals evolve their team-building process in the post-Lewis era is completely up for debate, and with a team still headed by Mike Brown, it’s dangerous asking for too much. But Brown seems to be relinquishing some of his power over the organization to his daughter Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn and her husband Vice President Troy Blackburn. Giving Taylor the freedom to acquire some familiar faces would be a nice start.
Here are some current Rams who could make the move to Cincinnati this offseason:
Rodger Saffold, Guard: Get any ideas of the Bengals bringing in a guy like Ndamukong Suh of LaMarcus Joyner out of your head. Despite Suh’s age, he could still demand a pretty large contract, or at the very least he’d probably take a pay cut for a winning team. Joyner will likely be a prime target for most teams as well, if the Rams don’t retain his services.
As for Saffold, he would be a long shot for the Bengals, but at 30-years-old, he may not be happy with the offers he gets on the open market. We don’t know what kind of offense the Bengals will be running yet, but if Saffold were to move on from a team that may not pay up, this would provide him a chance to play under a scheme similar to that of McVay’s, where he has proven himself to be an asset.
This would be a surprising move if the Bengals could pull it off, and it would instantly upgrade the offensive line that held this team back last season.
Ethan Westbrooks, Defensive lineman: Westbrook is the typical Bengal free agent the Bengals go after. His versatility is evident with his experience playing all along the defensive line with the Rams. His production jumped to four sacks last season, but that number dropped to one this past season after playing nearly 50% less snaps. The Rams brought in an incredible amount of talent across the defensive line, and Westbrooks was phased out of the rotation.
While Westbrook isn’t the kind of guy who is going to wow the fan base, he would provide valuable depth along the Bengals’ defensive line and potentially push guys like Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard to earn their roles.
Dominique Easley, Defensive line: Easley went on injured reserve this past season after needing knee surgery. His suitors may be limited as the draft is absolutely stacked with defensive lineman, and he now has off two major knee injuries to his name. Easley had transitioned from defensive tackle to edge defender for the Rams, and he could play multiple positions in the Bengals’ four-man front. He could be a low-risk addition for Cincinnati that ends up paying off.
Matt Longacre, Linebacker: Another player who could be a bargain in Longacre. The fourth-year player started a career-high seven games for the Rams this season, but never really made too much of an impact. He ended up only playing a little over 27 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, but he could be a great culture guy as he went through the Rams shift from Jeff Fischer to McVay during the 2017 offseason. The Bengals need a noticeable overhaul at linebacker, and Longacre can become a part of that.