The No. 1 seeded Titans boast an offense that’s looking to get back the incomparable Derrick Henry at running back for their postseason run. Even if Henry doesn’t play, or is playing at less than 100%, Tennessee will hope to be able to run the ball against a Bengals defense that is below average in that regard.
It’ll be a lot harder for Cincinnati to stop the run if they’re light at defensive tackle. On Monday, they placed Larry Ogunjobi on Injured Reserve, and head coach Zac Taylor had previously declared Mike Daniels out for the playoffs as well. Add in pre-existing injuries to Josh Tupou and Renell Wren and you’re looking at severe depth issues.
The Bengals will likely be adding a defensive tackle sometime this week to at least dress for Saturday’s Divisional round matchup. The free agent market isn’t full of highly-known players at any position, but there are some names that can fill in where the Bengals are at their weakest.
Turning to former Bengals is the obvious starting point. Akinmoladun isn’t the only available defensive tackle that has played under Taylor, but he is the only one that made it to training camp last year. Akinmoladun was waived in late August before final cuts, but he was a significant contributor during the preseason, so much that you could’ve made a final roster case for him.
After leaving Cincinnati, Akinmoladun had to wait a few months before getting his next opportunity. He joined the New York Jets practice squad on Christmas Eve and was activated for their Week 16 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s since been released and is available to reunite with his first NFL team.
One of the more experienced options out there, Spence has jumped around over the last few years but is still collecting checks from time to time. He’s most recently been with the Washington Football Team and Denver Broncos, as both teams signed and released him in December.
When you’re riding a playoff high, the only thing to galvanize more hype is to add a demigod to the mix.
Unfortunately, Mata’afa hasn’t lived up to his first name in the NFL. Originally an undrafted free agent of the Minnesota Vikings in 2018, the Vikings tried to beef him up as a more traditional pass-rushing defensive tackle. Their efforts didn’t net out much success, as Mata’afa dealt with injuries and other issues. His time with the Vikings officially ended at the end of this past offseason. Washington and Jacksonville gave him practice squad opportunities back in December, so he’s at least not rusty.
The Bengals should be familiar with Henry. The Baltimore Ravens drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He lasted in Baltimore up until final cuts in 2019, and he didn’t play in an NFL game after that until 2020 when he was with the San Francisco 49ers. Henry has not appeared in a game this season, but he did spend time on the New York Giants in August and September.