Quarterback Joe Burrow still has receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd to throw to, and that passing attack will probably be the thing this team focuses on keeping together for the long term. The team currently has the fifth-best odds of winning the next Super Bowl (+1100), according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
We have seen the beginning of the team preparing to let some of their excess talent go via free agency, but they still found ways to reload as well as improve in key areas.
- Jessie Bates, safety
- Vonn Bell, safety
- Samaje Perine, running back
- Hayden Hurst, tight end
The theme here is that the Bengals' biggest loss is their two veteran safeties.
Bates and Bell have been two of the biggest names on a defense that has been underrated at times. Bates was an expected departure, but losing Bell to the Carolina Panthers was a bit of a surprise. They were quietly one of the best safety duos in the NFL. The shoes left behind are pretty huge.
To someone not paying close attention to Cincinnati, the loss of Perine and Hurst may not seem like much. However, these two were quality role players on the offensive side of the ball. Hurst quickly became a reliable safety blanket for Burrow. He made a number of tough conversions. Perine is also one of the best pass-blocking backs you’ll find in the NFL. He also filled in for Joe Mixon quite nicely last season when called upon.
- Orlando Brown Jr., offensive tackle
- Irv Smith Jr., tight end
- Chase Brown, running back
- Myles Murphy, defensive end
- Nick Scott, safety
- Jordan Battle, safety
- Sidney Jones IV, cornerback
The biggest literal and figurative addition for the Bengals this offseason was Brown. Plugging him in at left tackle will be huge. He is an above-average pass blocker, but where he will really change this offense is his top-end ability to run block. All of those teams playing light boxes against the Bengals having to deal with the air assault will now have to deal with him blowing open holes for Joe Mixon and company.
Part of that company will be rookie running back Brown. He will be competing with Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans for the spot behind Mixon. However, the do-it-all back from Illinois will be more than up for the task.
Smith will also be attempting to fill Hurst’s role from last season. He was a lost man among the Minnesota Vikings, as injuries and drops derailed his time there. Much like Hurst, he will be given an opportunity to show he is more than what he was able to put on film. Burrow may easily continue the trend of getting his tight end paid in free agency.
Finally, we come to the defensive additions. The combination of Scott, Battle, and Daxton Hill (last year’s top draft pick) will fill the void left at the safety position. None of these guys have played meaningful snaps for the Bengals, so it remains the biggest question mark that won’t be answered until the season starts.
A reason for confidence in this bunch and the defense specifically is the return of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. He has found ways to keep opposing quarterbacks guessing as to what exactly is being tossed at them snap after snap. He still has players with the ability to play multiple positions and the speed to blow up plays from sideline to sideline. He still has all the materials to make his crazy schemes, but how quickly will these new faces pick them up?
Have the Bengals' odds improved following the 2023 offseason?
This should be a mild yes. The only reason is they have shown the past two years that they, and the Kansas City Chiefs, are the favorites in the AFC. One of the biggest areas of concern that has derailed the Bengals over the past two years has been offensive line depth. Injuries have ruined their past two post-seasons.
As of now, La’el Collins, Jonah Williams, and Jackson Carman are competing for that right tackle spot. No matter who steps up there, the depth at tackle should be super deep, with Williams being able to swap over to left tackle if necessary, as well as Collins or Jackson still being able to start at right tackle.
Anarumo should have the defense in a good spot by the post-season despite missing two huge names. There are young faces waiting in the wings to fill those roles. They may not be as good, but they should be good enough with an improved offensive line and Burrow slinging the ball around. It is scary to think this offense could be even better if Brown is able to unlock a more consistent running game, but that is where we are at. Burrow may finally have a play-action that actually poses real fear in linebackers and safeties.
The Bengals’ fifth-best odds to win the Super Bowl has more to do with the teams they face this season and those teams’ strength of schedule. Smart money should be on the Chiefs or Bengals to be representing the AFC, and from there it all comes down to the actual game being played.