Zac Taylor’s tenure as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals has started off quite poorly. The Bengals have yet to win a game and there are very few positives to grasp on to. The Bengals’ roster was criticized far and wide heading into the season and those issues have been on display all year.
This article will look forward to 2020. Looking at each position individually and looking at three categories of players for next season.
- Retain: Players that the Bengals should definitely bring back for training camp in 2020. In some cases this means re-signing these players.
- Sign: Potential free agents from outside of the organization who the Bengals should target in free agency if they do become free agents.
- Draft: Avoiding the mention of specific players for the most part, this states where the Bengals should target players at this position in the 2020 NFL Draft. (I believe in drafting best player available, so this is just a loose guide.)
Retain: Ryan Finley and Jake Dolegala
This will be the most drastically changing position. The Bengals have already moved on from Andy Dalton and they need to move him for at least a Day 2 pick this offseason. That leaves the two rookies. They should keep both around to compete for a spot in the fall.
Sign: Marcus Mariota
If they move Dalton they will need to bring in a bridge quarterback to help along their presumed first round pick. Mariota lost his starting job with the Titans and is due to become a free agent this offseason. He would make a lot of sense for the Bengals.
Draft: Joe Burrow
With the injury to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Burrow has been solidified as the most likely pick, but Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert will still be in the running.
Burrow’s ability to move both inside and outside the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield is something the Bengals offense is in desperate need of. He could be the future of this organization.
So let’s go back to Mariota. The former second-overall pick is a gritty athletic quarterback who can create; just like Burrow. If you designed an offense around Burrow’s skillset, Mariota would be able to run it effectively. Mariota also understands the pressure of being a high draft pick and being expected to come in a lead a team, making him an excellent mentor for Burrow.
Let’s make this real simple. The Bengals have Joe Mixon, they just extended Giovani Bernard, and they drafted Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson just last year. They should be all set at running back.
Retain: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate, Alex Erickson, Damion Willis, and Stanley Morgan Jr.
The biggest question is Green. My belief is that he wants to be in Cincinnati and won’t cost as much as you might think. Green has stated that he wants a multi-year deal and considering his injury status that is a bit scary. Still. Boyd and Ross are talented and Tate has looked good this season, but this group needs a playmaker like Green on the field. It will also be interesting to see how rookies Willis and Morgan progress in Year 2.
Sign: Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant, Jaron Brown, or Keelan Doss
Once Ross got hurt this group lost something... Speed. If they are comfortable with Green receiver isn’t a huge need, but they could afford add some speed to the position. It would be great if they could get one of these four players affordably.
Draft: Day 3 pick
Of course, they could add a speedy receiver through the draft as well, but with needs at on offensive line and at linebacker, they probably won’t look to draft a receiver early.
Retain: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Tyler Eifert, Cethan Carter, and Mason Schreck
Uzomah has been pretty solid this year and although he could be more productive Eifert has actually been healthy (knock on wood). Hopefully Sample shows something in year two.
Just re-sign Eifert and Carter.
If they re-sign Eifert and Carter they don’t need to bring in another tight end. Of course if an opportunity to upgrade presented itself, they should jump at it, but tight end should not be a priority.
Retain: Jonah Williams, Trey Hopkins, John Miller, Billy Price, begrudgingly Bobby Hart, John Miller, and maybe Cordy Glenn
It will be great to get Williams out there and Hopkins has been one of the only bright spots in this group.
Other than that... oof. Maybe things will work out with Glenn, although it isn’t looking good. They should probably see if they can get a decent return on trading him. Price may never be what you want in a Round 1 pick, but maybe he will get more consistent. All in all, this group needs a lot of work
Sign: Jack Conklin and Andrus Peat
These are two interesting potential free agents. Conklin and Peat are both young and talented players, but will cost more than the Bengals are accustomed to spending. The hope is that the front office realizes that if they are going to invest in a new quarterback, they had better do a better job of protecting the quarterback. Conklin is a bit risky due to his injury history, but there is a high reward as well. They probably aren’t going to be able to get a Day 1 starter in the draft, so they need to attack this position in free agency.
Draft: 2 Mid-Round picks
The Bengals need a lot of work at this position and should look to add both a tackle and a guard in the draft and they could look as early as the second round.
Retain: Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson, Sam Hubbard, Josh Tupou, Andrew Billings, Andrew Brown, Renell Wren, and Anthony Zettel
Atkins is a stud and Tupou and Billings have really been getting it done against the run.
Dunlap is still very good and Lawson is an absolute stud pass rusher. Hubbard is another versatile edge player who has improved in his sophomore year.
Sign: Jabaal Sheard or Jason Pierre-Paul
You can always use more pass rusher. Sheard is currently underperforming on a large contract. If there is a price correction this off-season, he could be a good get. Pierre-Paul is past his prime, but could be a good value and contribute situationally.
Draft: Yes — Pass Rushers
They should not be looking for interior defensive linemen who cannot rush the passer, but they should look for pass rushers anywhere they can find them.
Retain: Nick Vigil and Germaine Pratt
The Bengals already decided to move on from Preston Brown. Vigil has not played great this season either, at times he has been worse than Brown. Pratt has had some nice flashes as a rookie and is a terrific athlete. He could develop into a very good player, but he has a way to go. They cannot rely on his development. They need to acquire more linebackers.
Sign: Sean Lee, Mychal Kendricks, or Cory Littleton
Kendricks and Littleton are both excellent athletes and can do a lot of different things from the linebacker position.
At 33, Lee is no longer having the impact that he once did in Dallas, but he would be a massive upgrade for this defense. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, bringing in an aging linebacker does feel a little familiar and hasn’t panned out in the past, but that is why it is important to draft another backer as well.
Draft: Day 2
The Bengals need to add a linebacker early in the draft, preferably someone who can start in year one. They could and should look to add a linebacker as early as the second round.
Retain: William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, B.W. Webb, Darius Phillips
He’s had his struggles this season, but I think we all still believe in Jackson’s potential to be an elite cornerback in the NFL. Opposite Jackson is Kirkpatrick, who is notably less popular in the fan base, but still can perform. Phillips has shown great promise and Webb was a nice addition this year. The Bengals will likely retain more than four, but this quartet should definitely be brought back.
Sign: Not a priority
They have a pretty solid group and should look to spend their money elsewhere.
Again, the talent and depth at cornerback is pretty good. They should focus on other areas.
Retain: Jessie Bates III, Brandon Wilson, Clayton Fejedelem, Shawn Williams
Bates is having a bit of a sophomore slump, but should bounce back next year. Wilson has really stepped up his game this year, and Fejedelem has been solid when called upon. Williams has struggled. He should be brought back, but with competition.
Sign: Andrew Sendejo
His age is less than ideal, but Sendejo is the type of versatile box safety that the Bengals need. Signing him would be a big step in the right direction for this team. I’d love to see them sign Vonn Bell or Karl Joseph, but I think the money will be more reasonable with Sendejo.
Draft: Day 2?
I would love to see them draft LSU’s Grant Delpit, but he will go in the first round. It would be great if they could get a versatile safety on Day 2, but we will have to see how the draft carries out.
Retain: Probably everybody
Sign: Probably nobody
Kevin Huber has been very good as has Clark Harris. Randy Bullock however is, and always has been replacement level.
The way I see it, the Bengals biggest need is at quarterback, but offensive line and defense have several needs as well. The Bengals need a veteran and a rookie quarterback. They need to find a starting right tackle and preferably a starting interior offensive lineman as well.
They need two new linebackers, not that Pratt can’t be the starter, but they need to bring in two guys who can compete. At least one of which needs to be a sure starter. They should also update the safety position, preferably with a versatile player who can play in the box and cover tight ends man-to-man.
Adding a receiver who can get separation and another pass rusher would be great, but they are secondary to the team’s other needs.