The Bengals typically aren’t very active in free agency, but if there was ever a year for that to change, it would be this year. A combination of ample cap space, a fresh new coaching staff and just a few internal free agents worthy of sizable contracts all point to the Bengals potentially being more involved in free agency than normal.
Linebacker remains a prime need for Cincinnati, but the chief spot they should be targeting in free agency is offensive tackle; a whole season of Bobby Hart starting proved that. These are five of the top right tackles that should be available when free agency begins.
1. Trent Brown
The Patriots, in their typical manner, performed robbery and made the rest of the league look like fools when they traded for Brown for peanuts and he started all season for them at left tackle. After one of the best seasons of his career, Brown should receive a solid payday in free agency. If the Bengals signed him he would be moving back to right tackle where he has played most of his career.
Brown has never been one of the top players at his position, but his 2018 season was a great building block for his development. He’d be an immediate upgrade for the Bengals.
2. Ja’Wuan James
A former first-round pick, James has turned into good player for the Miami Dolphins and looks to have the best years of his career ahead of him. He could end up receiving the biggest contract for tackles on the market, but it seems unlikely anyone gets close to Nate Solder’s $15 million per year figure this offseason.
Even though James would typically be out of the Bengals’ price range, this might be the year they buck their typical trends.
3. Daryl Williams
Williams missed essentially all of the 2018 season with an injury, but is expected be fully healthy for the 2019 season. The Panthers will not want to let Williams go, but they do not have a ton of cap space and might not have a choice in the matter. He will not be a world beater at offensive tackle, but he should be a big upgrade for the Bengals. He would be able to hold down the position for several years as he’s just 26 years old.
4. Ty Nsekhe
If you don’t think the Bengals will change their frugal ways this year, then Nsekhe is the ideal tackle for them to target. Nsekhe has been Washington’s swing tackle for several years and has performed admirably in that role. However, he is 33 and will turn 34 in November so he will come at a heavy discount for any team signing him as a starter.
The plan would have to be different as you would want a developmental guy behind Nsekhe, but he can hold the position for a couple years as the Bengals develop the right tackle of the future.
5. George Fant
Fant is another discount option, but still has a chance to become a long-term starter. Though he’s shown flashes for the Seahawks, he is still very much a raw piece of clay who needs teaching to reach his potential. The Bengals would probably be in a similar situation whether they signed Fant or just brought back Jake Fisher as both have great tools, have struggled with injuries, and still need refining in their mid-20s.
The offensive tackle isn’t very strong this year, but there remains solid options for the Bengals. They could also look into bringing back Fisher, who has flashed when he has stayed healthy, but they need more than just him.
They also could look to address the position in the NFL Draft with the 11th overall pick. Players like Jawaan Taylor, Jonah Williams, or Cody Ford all seem to be in play around the middle of the first round. Even a second or third round pick may be able to start immediately as this year’s tackle class is relatively deep, but they don’t want to force themselves into picking a certain position ideally.