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How free agency may impact the Bengals’ draft plans

The Bengals early moves may not seem very important, but they will affect how the team looks at the draft.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

T.S. Eliot died in 1965, three years before the Bengals franchise was founded, so it is pretty clear he wasn’t talking about the Bengals when he wrote these words in his poem The Hollow Men. But hey, he could have been.

Despite their former hashtag slogan, the Bengals never seem to roar into anything, especially not free agency. While other teams have used the legal tampering period to make huge offers to big-name free agents like linebackers Kwon Alexander, C.J. Mosley, offensive tackle Trent Brown and safety Landon Collins, the Bengals were working on bringing their own players back on deals which range from okay to infuriating.

These moves could play an important role how the team looks at the draft.

Re-signing Bobby Hart

The Bengals brought in Bobby Hart on a one-year deal last offseason and after a being the weakest link on the offensive line it seemed obvious that the Bengals should move on. Unfortunately, there is no obvious when it comes to the Bengals. The contract may not be as bad as it was reported initially, but the fact that they prioritized bring him back is a major concern.

Re-signing Hart most likely means that the Bengals will not be taking an offensive tackle at 11. This is bad news as there are a hand full of offensive tackles in this years draft, including Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, who could have been excellent options at that spot. The offensive tackle position is so front loaded with talent in this draft class, that it made a good default for the Bengals. Meaning that it would be more than reasonable to say that they should draft Devin White, Ed Oliver, or the best tackle available. Odds are there is going to be a good one there. At least better than... well you know.

The point is that the Bengals seem to be comfortable with Hart moving forward. With Hart signed through 2021 and Cordy Glenn signed through 2020, the team likely thinks they have their bookend tackles for at least the next two seasons. In short, don’t get your hopes up for an offensive tackle at the 11th overall pick.

Signing John Miller

The Bengals seem comfortable with the status quo at right tackle, but did look to upgrade the right guard position bringing in (surprise surprise) former Buffalo Bills guard John Miller. The Bengals moved to bring back Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond.

When you add in Clint Boling, Christian Westerman, and 2018 first round pick Billy Price, you have a complete two-deep on the interior line. For that reason, it is highly unlikely that the Bengals draft a guard at all.

The position has depth and if Miller and Price can step up, they will have a talented group of starters,

Re-signing C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Eifert

The Bengals’ top three tight ends all had contracts expiring this year. The Bengals resigned C.J. Uzomah and the injury-prone Tyler Eifert, while Tyler Kroft will be heading to Buffalo,

While Uzomah was not able to bring the same spark to the offense that Eifert did, he is a good player who can be effective as long as he is not called on to be a top contributor. If the John Ross can take a step forward, then the trip of Ross, A.J. Green, and Tyler Boyd hopefully combined with effective use of Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard will be the driving force in the passing game. Uzomah does not have to be a star. He is a good receiver who can line up spread, tight, or in the backfield and is an adequate blocker.

Eifert is a wild card. His injury history means he cannot be counted on to make it through an entire season. If he can stay healthy and productive, he will certainly add something to the offense, but they must remain flexible.

Signing Uzomah and Eifert should not have an impact on what the Bengals do with the position in the draft. Although they gave Uzomah a contract that indicates he is the starter, Iowa tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson should still be under consideration at 11. They may look to add another player to the position and if it is not in the first round, adding a player like Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger in the third round would be a great move.

Re-signing Preston Brown

Preston Brown came to the Bengals in 2018 after an impressive stint with the Buffalo Bills. He was known as a run stopper, but played fairly well in the passing game before injury shut him down for the season after seven games. Brown was not great, but he was the best linebacker in a poor group.

Retaining him and hoping he stays healthy and returns to form under better coaching was a good move as long as they don’t feel it is the only move they need to make at the position,

Brown is a good player, but if they are relying on him as a key pass defender, they could be in trouble. Ideally, he should be the guy coming off the field in nickel (or more accurately to today’s NFL the guy going on the field when it is not nickel) but his contract seems to indicate that they expect more of him.

It is promising that the Bengals cut Vontaze Burfict because it shows that they understand the position needs to be overhauled. The Bengals needed more than just one player at this position, so re-signing Brown should have little to no impact on how they see the draft. Brown is a pure MIKE linebacker, so they may look to avoid this type, but that is a positive since outside backers are often better pass defenders.

LSU linebacker Devin White should still be one of the top candidates at 11. He played middle linebacker, but has the athletic ability to play outside linebacker. After an impressive combine, Michigan’s Devin Bush could also be an option in the first round. It is highly likely that one of these two is the pick at 11. Alabama’s Mack Wilson could also be a great addition if he is available in the second round. He has a knack for making plays in the pass game, which is something that the Bengals are lacking overall at the position.

The Bengals should be looking to double down at the position and will hopefully add someone like Washington’s Ben Burr-Kirven, North Carolina State’s Germaine Pratt, or Akron’s Ulysses Gilbert in the middle of the draft.