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Tuesday Trenches: All The Right Moves

The championship window is open, and the Bengals know it.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

We’ve been in draft season, but now we’re really coming close to it. Free agency has died down as most teams are waiting to see which players they land in the draft before they finish rounding out their rosters.

The Cincinnati Bengals signed tight end Irv Smith Jr., addressing the largest need on the roster, and now they’ll go into the draft with very few holes to fill.

So how about we rank the positions of need?

In no particular order, we have:

  • Tight end
  • Right tackle
  • Running back
  • Cornerback
  • Defensive tackle
  • Edge rusher
  • Punter

Let’s take a look at the offense first.

The Bengals have most of their positions on offense filled out, but there are some depth issues. Obviously, there isn’t a need at quarterback, wide receiver (this year), left tackle, center, right guard, and probably not at left guard either. That leaves right tackle, running back and tight end.

The Bengals still have former first-round pick Jonah Williams on the roster, who has started at left tackle over the last few seasons. With the addition of Orlando Brown Jr., the team has decided to move Williams to right tackle. Williams has since requested a trade. The team still has La’el Collins on the roster, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the season, so his status for the upcoming season is uncertain.

Williams struggled at left tackle in 2022, and it’s not really clear how good he’d be at right tackle. The best thing the Bengals could possibly do is use their No. 28 overall pick on a right tackle to make sure Joe Burrow is nice and comfortable in the pocket.

At tight end, the Bengals have Smith Jr., now, but the only other tight end on the roster with any experience is Devin Asiasi, and Smith Jr. also has some injury concerns. This is a deep draft class at the tight end position, and there is likely to be an instant starter at the position in the first round, possibly even if they trade back.

The running back position is a mess. Charges were re-filed against Joe Mixon, which doesn’t help the fact that he was on the list to be a cap casualty already. He was the highest-paid player on the team’s offense last season, and he couldn’t play in the second half of the AFC Championship game because of his inability to pass block. The team would save over $10 million by cutting him after June 1, and could definitely upgrade the position in the draft, and they may not need to use their first-round pick to do it.

On to the defense.

The Bengals have a solid foundation for a great defense, with good corners, a good defensive line, and good linebackers. There are questions at safety and a lack of depth on the defensive line and at cornerback.

Put it this way, unless things fall a certain way, I expect the Bengals to use their first-round pick on offense.

At cornerback, the Bengals have Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Cam Taylor-Britt as their starters, and they re-signed Jalen Davis and signed free agent Sidney Jones. Awuzie is coming off a season-ending injury, and he’s entering the last year of his contract. I could see the Bengals addressing the corner position early.

At linebacker, the Bengals re-signed Germaine Pratt, but fellow linebacker Logan Wilson is entering the last year of his contract and is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. With extensions coming for Burrow and possibly Tee Higgins, there may not be enough left in the bank to keep Wilson around. Linebacker could be a position of need soon.

There are similar problems on the defensive line. D.J. Reader is entering the last year of his deal as well and could leave a mountain-sized hole on the roster. The Bengals will need to find depth on the line soon as B.J. Hill only has two years left on his contract. If the Bengals don’t get Hill and Reader extended, and they may not, they’ll need to have pieces in place to fill the void. Also, it’s important for any team to have a good rotation on the defensive line. Those are some big boys, and the more spells they get, the fresher they are late in the game and later in the season.

Finally, we come to safety, where the Bengals moved on from Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III, who will be replaced by Dax Hill at free safety and Nick Scott at strong safety. Hill doesn’t have a lot of experience and Scott has been in the league for four years but has only been a full-time starter for the 2022 season. They also have Tycen Anderson on the roster, though he missed his entire rookie season with a hamstring injury last year, and they re-signed Michael Thomas.

And special teams.

The Bengals are set at kicker, but they may want to address the punter position. They replaced long-time punter Kevin Huber last season with Dru Chrisman, but Chrisman only averaged 41.7 net yards per punt, and that’s not exactly lighting the world on fire. The Bengals may stick with Chrisman, but they would be better served by looking to upgrade the position.

Some random thoughts as we approach the draft:

  • I am so excited about the draft. I can barely stand it. The Bengals could go in several different directions, and there are multiple possibilities I could envision in late April.
  • Right now, the Bengals are better than they were at the end of the AFC Championship game, and that team was pretty great. With a tweak here and there, the sky’s the limit.
  • There were rumor’s floating around on Twitter that a deal with Tee Higgins is either finished or near finished. If that’s true, it’s fantastic. I am not worried that a deal with Higgins would inhibit the Bengals from extending Burrow as well. They know who’s more important. It would just mean Burrow is going to have one of his biggest weapons for the next few years.
  • Baltimore signing Odell Beckham Jr. for $15 million is...... something. He hasn’t played since the Super Bowl in early 2022, and he’s 30 years old. There probably aren’t any questions about his abilities, but there are about his durability. This is likely a last-ditch effort from the Ravens to keep Lamar Jackson in purple and black.
  • If the Bengals don’t get an offer they’re happy with for Jonah Williams, which I would assume is a day two pick (2nd or 3rd), they’ll happily move him to right tackle. He’s not going to sit out. He’s guaranteed $12.6 million, and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Sitting out the year would be career suicide. Le’Veon Bell sat out a year, and now he does those weird celebrity boxing matches. Having Williams at right tackle and then seeing if Collins could take the position away wouldn’t be a bad thing necessarily.
  • If the Bengals aren’t getting calls on Williams now, it doesn’t matter. That could all change if teams don’t get the picks they want in the first round of the upcoming draft.
  • Until next week!

Who Dey!