If the Cincinnati Bengals don’t express just a little more aggressiveness in free agency this offseason, they may never do so. The salary cap figure the public sees is never the number that the team deals with, but there is objectively enough room for more meaningful moves to be made before the NFL Draft.
One such move could involve adding a defensive back that is currently preparing for Super Bowl LIV.
Pro Football Focus listed one player each team needs to pursue in free agency and landed on Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller as their target for the Bengals.
CINCINNATI BENGALS: CB KENDALL FULLER
The Bengals are in rebuild mode and will be getting their franchise quarterback first overall this April. Positions of need are everywhere for Cincinnati, so after quarterback, cornerback is the next one to target. Kendall Fuller hasn’t been the same player for the Chiefs as he was in 2017 with Washington, but we have seen a level of play from Fuller that could make him a breakout player in 2020. In his second career season in 2017, Fuller’s 91.2 coverage grade tied for the second highest in the NFL, as he rarely gave up an explosive play. His 2018 wasn’t nearly as good, surrendering over 500 yards more in coverage but still ranking 38th of 120 qualifying cornerbacks in PFF coverage grade. This year, Fuller was out for a handful of weeks and has played more at safety in the latter part of the year. He’ll have a low asking price, and a fresh start for Fuller in Cincinnati back in the slot could be a win for both sides.
Fuller’s drop-off in performance over the last two seasons not only makes him likely to test the open market, but makes him an actual plausible target for the Bengals.
When he was traded to Kansas City as a part of the Alex Smith trade, Fuller was coming off a fantastic season as the Washington’s slot cornerback. His two years with the Chiefs have essentially eliminated the possibility of a market-resetting contract with his signature at the bottom, and that would make him a prime candidate for the Bengals’ services.
For Cincinnati, they have to figure out what they’re going to do with the cornerbacks they have right now first. Dre Kirkpatrick is a likely candidate to get traded or cut for cap purposes, and Darqueze Dennard is entering free agency as well. If one or both of them are headed for a new team, the prospect of signing Fuller becomes much more likely.
Free agency is a two-way street and these things don’t happen overnight. If a player like Fuller is on the Bengals’ radar, that means more turnover is indeed on the way at the cornerback position and that the organization will be willing to target higher-quality players on the open market. Both of these things are good news for Bengals fans.