The Cincinnati Bengals first got their new left tackle, Orlando Brown Jr., and then signed strong safety Nick Scott to replace Vonn Bell. Then they went dark. All was quiet for several days, and while other players that could have helped the Bengals were signed by other teams, fans grew impatient. Then, a little after midnight, the Bengals announced they signed a tight end, which was possibly their biggest need.
They signed Irv Smith Jr., who many believed was the best tight end left on the market. He signed a one-year prove-it deal. This is after quarterback Joe Burrow helped C.J. Uzomah sign a three-year, $24 million deal with the Jets and Hayden Hurst signed a three-year, $21 million deal with $13 million guaranteed with the Carolina Panthers.
Obviously, Smith Jr. has a similar career arc in mind, and for his, and for the Bengals’ sakes, I hope he’s right.
So now that the roster is beginning to take shape, let’s take a look at what the Bengals’ starting lineup could look like on both offense and defense.
QB: Joe Burrow
RB: Joe Mixon
LT: Orlando Brown Jr.
LG: Cordell Volson
C: Ted Karras
RG: Alex Cappa
RT: Jonah Williams/La’el Collins
TE: Irv Smith Jr.
WR1: Ja’Marr Chase
WR2: Tee Higgins
WR3: Tyler Boyd
DE: Trey Hendrickson
DT: B.J. Hill
NT: D.J. Reader
DE: Sam Hubbard
LB: Germaine Pratt
LB: Logan Wilson
CB: Chidobe Awuzie
CB: Cam Taylor-Britt
SCB: Mike Hilton
FS: Dax Hill
SS: Nick Scott
While the offense is definitely better, due to shoring up the offensive line, and adding a tight end, the jury is still out on the defense. Most of the defense is the same, but losing Jessie Bates III and Bell in the same offseason could hurt, but that doesn’t mean it definitely will hurt. The Hill and Scott duo could be great as both are very athletic defensive backs that can make plays all over the field.
Here are some thoughts on free agency:
- The Ravens are a hot mess right now. It’s clear they’re not interested in meeting Lamar Jackson where he’s at, and it’s clear Jackson isn’t interested in coming down on his number. In the end, both the Ravens and Jackson are likely to lose.
- The work the Bengals have done in free agency over the last three seasons has been a complete 180 from how they traditionally spent money. I’m not going to sit here and do the math, but I’d be willing to bet they have spent more on outside free agents over the last three years than they did over the previous eight seasons combined.
- I am going to do the math. The Bengals spent $260.422 million in free agency on OUTSIDE free agents in 2021, 2022 and so far in 2023. From 2011-2019, the Bengals spent $117.44 million.
- If I didn’t do my math right, I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure I got all the major signings in there. Either way, you get what I’m going for. This is the third year in a row of heavy free agency spending, and shows ownership is committed to winning the team’s first Super Bowl.
- Above I have Jonah Williams penciled in as the starting right tackle. As you know, he has requested a trade following the Jones Jr. signing. The Bengals haven’t gotten a ton of interest so far, but that could change as we approach the draft. If they don’t get something they feel is worth their value, they aren’t likely to trade him. He will be owed $12.6 million and I don’t think he passes that up. That doesn’t mean that he will for sure be the guy, though, but if you made me bet, I’d bet he is.
- The same goes for Joe Mixon. A lot of people believe Mixon will be a cap casualty cut after June 1. If they do, they’ll save themselves a little over $10 million. Considering he was the highest-paid player on the offense last year, and he had to sit out the last half of the AFC Championship game because he can’t pass block, if you made me bet whether or not he’d be on the team in Week 1, I’d bet not.
- Every penny counts when you might make Burrow the highest paid player in the history of the NFL. We’re patiently awaiting news of his extension. It’s not likely to be done before April 1, because if they wait until then, they won’t have to have the guaranteed cash in escrow until 2024. What do you think his contract will look like?
- I used to think he might take a home-town deal, or sign a “Tom Brady” contract, where he maybe takes less money than people expected. I don’t think that will be the case. He’s going to get his while he can, and I don’t blame him. In the end, it doesn’t matter. He’s worth whatever he asks for.
- Zeke. There was a lot of talk about Zeke Elliot this past week after the free agent running back said the Bengals were one of the three teams he would like to play for in 2023. Zeke, of course, helped Ohio State win the first ever NCAA playoff championship, but the Bengals fan base seem to be in disagreement on whether or not they’d like the Bengals to sign him.
- Here are my thoughts on Zeke: if Mixon is on the roster, Zeke shouldn’t be. If, however, the Bengals cut Mixon, signing Zeke would be good. He would be cheaper, he can pass block, and he’s about the same guy Mixon is when it comes to running the ball. The Bengals would still need to address the position in the draft, but they’d have a solid backfield.
- So, yes. I would like the Bengals sign Zeke, but only if they cut Mixon at the same time. Zeke is basically a Mixon who can pass block, and he’d be cheaper than Mixon. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
- The Bengals now move towards the draft without a glaring hole on the roster. Sure, there are places that can be upgraded, like right tackle, running back and, even though Smith Jr. just signed, tight end, but none of those positions are a “must have.” If I had to guess how the draft goes, I’d say they select a defensive lineman, tight end, cornerback and an offensive lineman in the first few rounds, but not in that particular order.
- What are your thoughts on the Smith Jr. signing and what do you think they’ll do in the first few rounds of the draft?