We’re just days away from free agency and under two months away from the NFL draft.
The Cincinnati Bengals opted not to use their franchise tag this offseason, so for now, we wait. While we wait, though, we can certainly discuss what they should do in free agency and with the No. 28 pick in the draft.
Let’s pretend they can only upgrade one position. Obviously, that’s not the case, but for the sake of this article, pretend it is. Which one should they upgrade? Which one would bring them closest to winning the Lombardi Trophy next February?
Let’s take a look.
Joe Mixon was likely a candidate to be a salary cap casualty, especially after June 1 when the Bengals could save themselves over $10 million. He is due a little over $12.7 million in 2023, and this is coming off the heels of a season in which he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry and had 814 yards on the ground to go with seven touchdowns. Combined with the possible legal trouble he could face now with not one, but two alleged incidents involving a gun, I think most people believe he’ll likely be cut.
Samaje Perine, Mixon’s backup, is also an unrestricted free agent, so the running back position will likely need an upgrade. However, is it the most important position?
With Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, the Bengals don’t really need a new wide receiver heading into 2023. If the Bengals are unable to retain Boyd or Higgins, then maybe in the future, but the position doesn’t need an upgrade for the next season.
Hayden Hurst is an unrestricted free agent, and in 2022, he had 414 receiving yards and two touchdowns throughout the regular season, which is a little lower than C.J. Uzomah’s 493 yards and five touchdowns from 2021.
The Bengals could bring Hurst back, or they could use the No. 28 pick to grab one of the few possible elite tight ends from this year’s rookie class. It’s doubtful that all of them will be available near the end of the first round, but one of them likely will be.
Can you imagine an offense trying to figure out how to stop Joe Burrow when he has Chase, Higgins, Boyd, and a top-tier tight end?
Is it the most important, though?
The Bengals made major adjustments to their offensive line after the 2021 season, bringing in La’el Collins, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa, then drafted left guard Cordell Volson. The line got off to a slow start, but they eventually started to gel together.
The Bengals did lose Cappa and Collins to season-ending injuries near the end of the year, and it’s currently unclear if Collins will be ready for the beginning of the upcoming season.
Left tackle Jonah Williams, the lone starting lineman from the 2021 season, struggled in 2022, allowing a league-high 13 sacks for an offensive tackle.
The Bengals absolutely could and should upgrade their line, especially the tackle position. Considering how the line directly affects Joe Burrow’s health and well-being, I personally think this is the most important position group to upgrade.
The Bengals have signed some great free agents to play on their defensive line, including D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill and Trey Hendrickson, and some of the guys they’ve drafted have stepped up.
However, they still don’t have a true three-tech defensive tackle to replace Geno Atkins (like Atkins can be replaced easily). Another big body on the line or another edge rusher could help increase the number of players rotated in and out, which would keep players like Reader fresh deeper into games. Reader is also entering the last year of his contract.
Germaine Pratt, who I think was the most improved player on the Bengals roster from 2021 to 2022, is an unrestricted free agent and is set to test the market, and fellow linebacker Logan Wilson is entering the last year of his rookie deal. Wilson has proven to be one of the best cover linebackers in the league and will demand a lot of money to keep around.
If the Bengals feel they can’t keep Wilson and Pratt together after extending guys like Burrow and Higgins, the linebacker position could be the answer.
The Bengals love their first-round cornerbacks. Chidobe Awuzie is coming back from a season-ending injury and Cam Taylor-Britt earned the other starting outside cornerback spot, and then you have Mike Hilton, one of the best slot corners in the league. However, Awuzie is also entering the last year of his deal and Hilton is 29.
The Bengals could absolutely inject some youth into the secondary with an early draft pick in a deep cornerback class, which would go a long way to keeping the defensive backfield firing on all cylinders in 2022 and beyond.
Is an upgrade needed at punter? Probably.
Is it the most important position to upgrade? No.
What do you think?
Which position group is the most important to upgrade this offseason?
This poll is closed
Quarterback (haha, no)