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Pair of Bengals make CBS’ list of top 25 defensive free agents

We hope both guys stick around.

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As the Cincinnati Bengals move forward after the heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to the Los Angeles Rams, speculation about the offseason moves are heating up. For the Bengals, it is a welcomed change to have these discussions in mid-February, as opposed to making mock drafts around Thanksgiving.

While a quick scroll through your Twitter feed will show film breakdowns of offensive lineman and dream scenario lineups for the big guys up front, there is plenty to look for on the defensive side of the ball. Two key Bengals may have the chance to find new homes in March, but the Bengals should work to avoid it,

CBS Sports recently released their list of the top 25 defensive free agents heading into next season and two Bengals check in.

Fifth on the list is standout safety Jessie Bates III. After players and fans advocated for Bates to be extended last spring and through the 2022 season, a deal was never completed, or close, depending on your sources. Bates played out the final year of his rookie contract and could be primed to hit the open market in March. After a regular season that didn’t necessarily live up to the lofty expectations his career has set for him, Bates made up for it (and then some) in the magical postseason ride.

Pulling in two interceptions, breaking up multiple passes and tipping the ball directly into Vonn Bell’s hands are just a few of the big plays Bates made in the four postseason games, and he did them on the biggest stages.

Big performances in big games often leads to a higher payday for a player who enters the open market the following offseason. Look for Bates to sign a long term extension or play the 2023 season under the franchise tag. At just 25 years old, when the new league year begins, the former second-rounder will command quite a bit of interest, if the Bengals allow it.

If you ask Mike Hilton, the answer is quite simple.

Checking in at 22nd on the list is defensive tackle B.J. Hill. Nobody thought much of the addition when Cincinnati traded for him in late August, but that trade turned out to be one of the most impactful trades of 2021 in the NFL.

With five and a half sacks, a career-high 50 tackles and an awesome tipped ball he picked off in the AFC Championship Game, Hill was one of the more valuable pieces in a defensive front that dealt with the injury big throughout the season.

At 26 years old, Hill has enough time in the NFL to understand his role and play it very well, but he is not so long in the tooth that a long term contract is out of the question for him. The Bengals may have to make the decision between retaining Hill or Larry Ogunjobi, so the chances Hill sees the open market look higher than that of Bates.

As fans and national media analysts abroad clammer for money and draft capital to be spent on the offensive line, it would be in Duke Tobin’s best interest to address that, while not letting two of the more important defensive players on the team slip through the cracks.