One area of need the Bengals have entering the 2020 offseason is depth at pass rusher. The team has dealt with being too thin at that position the past few seasons with how much they want to rotate players. They’re trying to correct that by having an old familiar face return.
Free agent defensive end Chris Smith is visiting the Bengals today, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
After visiting the Panthers on Tuesday, former Browns DL Chris Smith is visiting the Bengals today, per source. Smith knows his way around Cincinnati; he played for the Bengals prior to his stint with the Browns.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2020
Smith played with the Bengals in 2017 after the team traded for him as he was likely to be cut by the Jaguars. He came in and absolutely lit up the 2017 preseason. Playing against backups, he was one of Pro Football Focus’ top ranked players.
The pass rushers who have disrupted the QB at an impressive clip this preseason pic.twitter.com/8g2nRIj3Hf— PFF (@PFF) September 2, 2017
This isn’t to say Smith will be coming to Cincinnati and becoming a major contributor. The Bengals don’t need him to be though. They already have players like Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson who have proven to be a potent rotation when healthy. What the Bengals need Smith to be is a rotational player who can possibly step in during injuries. He also would compete with Andrew Brown for the last spot at defensive end, or open up Brown more opportunities to kick inside rather than play the edge.
Smith struggled to find success with Cleveland the past two seasons. He only managed one sack in his two seasons with the teams. He also only recorded one forced fumble, three passes defended and three quarterback hits over his 25 games in Cleveland. All of those numbers become even less impressive when you realize he put up comparable or even better numbers with his one season as a rotational player for Cincinnati. He recorded three sacks, two passes defended, a forced fumble and nine quarterback hits.
It would be surprising to see Smith sign any sort of major contract. At 28, Smith’s best option may be a one-year deal that allows him he can still be a reliable rotational player who got stuck in a bad situation the past couple of seasons. Then after that he can more realistically play the market.
It should be noted that if the Bengals’ sign Smith, that wouldn’t mean they’d be out of the running of drafting another edge player, but it keeps them from being forced to do so. This move would help fill a lesser need while freeing up draft capital to be spent elsewhere if deemed fit.