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Bengals tabbed as best fit for 2 of ESPN’s top 50 free agents

One of these AFC East stars has a good chance of ending up in Cincinnati.

Wild Card Round - Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

NFL free agency is just over a month away, and while the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t expected to spend like crazy next month, their biggest needs will surely be addressed.

Earlier this week, ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler matched ESPN’s top 50 impending free agents with a best team fit. Fowler gave the Bengals two players in the top 25: Patriots left guard Joe Thuney and Bills linebacker Matt Milano

Much has been said about Thuney and the Bengals thus far this offseason. Milano, on the other hand, has not really been linked to Cincinnati at all. Here’s what Fowler had to say about the fit:

Cincinnati needs to get more explosive on defense, and Milano can anchor a linebacker corps lacking high-level talent. The Bengals could lose several players to free agency and must replenish. Milano created a strong market as a weakside 4-3 linebacker who can effectively blitz (3.5 sacks in 10 games last season). He might still be most valuable to Buffalo, which will attempt to re-sign him.

There’s no doubt that Milano would improve the Bengals’ linebacking corps, but would he be worth the price to acquire him? The Bengals didn’t pay what it took to bring in former Browns linebacker Joe Schobert last year, and Milano is an even better player who will surely cost more.

Linebacker was one of Cincinnati’s biggest weaknesses entering last offseason and the club threw three draft picks and a low-cost free agent in Josh Bynes to solidify the position. Their efforts were successful as Bynes and rookies Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither proved to be solid players in 2020. Now, for the first time in a long time, linebacker is not one of the Bengals’ most pressing issues. Milano’s value would not equate to what it would cost to bring him in.

The argument for Thuney, however, is a bit stronger considering the Bengals are still desperate for help at both guard spots. Thuney will cost a pretty penny to sign, but he’s a known asset and will play up to his salary while filling a glaring hole on the roster. That in itself can makeup for the fact that Thuney’s position is of lesser value.

Cincinnati have never paid a guard nor a linebacker top money in free agency, but if we were to guess which position bucks that trend this year, it would be the former over the latter.