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Despite notable improvements, Bengals’ roster question marks still remain

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ESPN ranked Cincinnati’s offseason as average, and it’s hard to dispute.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals really have had a huge offseason by their standards.

When you look at last 10 years, this one stands out in several ways. They brought in several free agents from outside of Cincinnati before the draft, they used draft capital to move up in the draft to select players they coveted, and of course they hired Zac Taylor and pretty much an entirely new coaching staff.

The problem is that when you compare this offseason to other teams around the NFL, it doesn’t really stand out. ESPN’s Katherine Terrell even ranked the Bengals’ offseason as average:

Offseason goals: The main goals this offseason were to fix the defense and revamp the offensive line. That’s still a work in progress. While the Bengals did draft first-round pick Jonah Williams, they also re-signed Bobby Hart, who struggled last year, to play right tackle. As for the defense, they released linebacker Vontaze Burfict, re-signed Darqueze Dennard and drafted linebacker Germaine Pratt. Did that actually make the defense better? It’s definitely going to be the question of the summer.

ESPN categorized teams’ offseasons as elite, above average, average or too soon to tell, and props to Terrell for being realistic in her ranking (unlike Jeremy Fowler who ranked the Steelers offseason as above average after losing two of their best players in the offseason). It is hard to argue with Terrell’s ranking other than maybe calling it too soon to tell.

The Bengals drafted Jonah Williams to play left tackle, but they have been vocal that Cordy Glenn is more likely to play left guard and backup Williams at left tackle rather than compete with Bobby Hart at right tackle. The Hart signing on its own isn’t terrible. The fact they didn’t really go out and try and bring in any competition at right tackle is what is especially troubling.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati brought in two free agent guards, drafted another and as stated before, are converting their former left tackle to guard. The offensive line has undergone an overhaul, like it did last year, but will the results be more positive than in 2018?

You could easily argue that the Bengals should have addressed tackle in a similar fashion. Too much of the offensive line’s (and offenses’ to a point) ability to succeed rely on a player who didn’t show much promise or consistency the year prior.

Then there’s the linebacker position, which has been an issue every offseason for a few years now. The team cutting Burfict doesn’t really help, but considering the condition he has been in the past few seasons, it is hard to argue with the move to release him.

Who did the Bengals bring in? They drafted Pratt and Deshaun Davis. Pratt really is the kind of linebacker this team has needed for seasons. He has the ability to cover, but he’s a plus run defender more than anything.

The problem lies in relying on rookies to come in and instantly fix a group that has been one of the worst over the past few seasons. You could also make a case for Malik Jefferson having a chance to contribute, but we hardly saw him last season. Preston Brown also returns after an injury-shortened season in 2018.

It is hard to say the Bengals went out this offseason and filled the obvious holes they had to start the offseason. They patched one at guard, but they seem to be relying on the coaching changes to fix the others, which seems pretty unfair to those coaches.

These positional question marks will be answered during the season, but it is frustrating we could have these same positions needing filled next season after always seeming to be a need for this team.