The Bengals are coming off one of the worst seasons in recent memory finishing with a record of 2-14 and the first overall pick.
Of course, the Bengals finished at the bottom, so there is no way to go but up. However it seems the Bengals have more reason to be optimistic than a lot of bottom teams. Let’s take a look at what some of those reasons are.
1. New franchise quarterback
While it is not yet locked in it seems like a pretty safe bet that the Bengals will be fielding a young new quarterback in 2020, which is always something to be excited for. While Andy Dalton brought a decent amount of respectability to the team for a long time, he has not been the quarterback to get the Bengals over the hump, so getting a young new guy to take over is ideal. Heisman winning quarterback Joe Burrow is the best bet, but Justin Herbert, who the Bengals will work with at the Senior Bowl, and Tua Tagovailoa, who needs to have his medicals checked at the Combine, will both be in consideration by the Bengals as well.
2. Zac Taylor’s growth
The Bengals were on the path to an all time bad offensive season which is partially what lead to the benching of Andy Dalton. However, Ryan Finley was much worse than Andy Dalton and Taylor brought Dalton back for evaluation and morale purposes. After Andy Dalton came back, however, there seemed to be a shift with the team actually being able to put up points something it had struggled to do all year, and Joe Mixon was finally able to get it going in the ground game. If the tail end of the season is a sign of things to come, Bengals fans have a lot to be optimistic about with the Bengals offense. With the end of the season success along with hopeful 2020 additions of A.J. Green, Jonah Williams, and a new QB, the offense’s future looks bright.
3. A.J. Green returns
Of course, one of the assumptions made in the continued growth of the offense is the return of star receiver A.J. Green. This is also assuming that Green is in Cincinnati next season, but after missing all of 2019 it is unlikely he would generate much interest in free agency or the trade market and worst case scenario the Bengals may franchise tag him. The Bengals offense could become a different beast with him back as it was clear when Green and Ross were out that the offense was sorely lacking a deep threat and with both healthy it would be nearly impossible to cover all the deep routes and stop Tyler Boyd across the middle.
4. Defensive improvement
In one key factor there was significant improvement for the Bengals defense as it approached the end of the season. Germaine Pratt may have not had the best start with a couple of sub-par performances, but by the end of the season, he was playing lights out. His play also seemed to have an effect on Nick Vigil whose play quality also increased towards the end of the season as Pratt came into his own. If both can play like they did at the end of the season in 2020, there is reason to believe the entire defense will play better with even decent play from the linebacker position.
5. Lots of money to spend
I am sure there will be lots of groans as number 5 is read with people remembering the Bengals unwillingness to spend money in free agency. However, this year may finally be the one that is different. The Bengals already have a lot of cap space, along with the fact that Andy Dalton and Cordy Glenn are prime cut/trade candidates and would open up a lot of money. On top of the large amount of money that would be available, the Bengals also do not have a lot of internal free agents that should command big money. With A.J. Green the only player who should get anything more than eight per year and Nick Vigil and Andrew Billings the only other two that might get more than five. They may attempt to lock up Joe Mixon or William Jackson III a year early, but even adding that in, the Bengals will have so much cap space they will have no choice, but to sign some external free agents and maybe splurge on a big one for once like a Brandon Scherff to shore up the offensive line.