The Cincinnati Bengals defense didn’t sack opposing quarterbacks very often in 2022, only registering 30 sacks, which put them in 29th place throughout the regular season.
The Bengals acted by selecting Clemson Tigers edge rusher Myles Murphy with the No. 28 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, Murphy is going through some growing pains and may not be ready to make a major impact in Year 1, while Joseph Ossai is already dealing with a significant injury.
The Bengals’ best pass rusher recorded 20 sacks throughout the regular and postseason in 2021 but only nine in 2022. However, his pass rush grade, according to Pro Football Focus, actually increased in 2022.
Who am I talking about? You know it’s......
- Height: 6-4
- Weight: 270 lbs.
- Age: 28
- College: Florida Atlantic University
- Hometown: Orlando, Florida
- Experience: 6 years
Right as training camp began, the Bengals and Hendrickson agreed to a one-year extension worth a total of $21 million. As part of the extension, the Bengals gave Hendrickson an $8 million signing bonus in 2023 and increased his salary for this year by $5 million, according to Over The Cap.
In 2024, Hendrickson has a cap hit of just over $20 million. His 2025 cap hit is $18.7 million.
Hendrickson was selected out of FAU in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. The pick used to select Hendrickson was acquired from the New England Patriots in exchange for wide receiver Brandon Cooks.
Hendrickson recorded just nine sacks over his first three seasons with the Saints, with just two in his rookie year, none in this second year (he only appeared in five games in 2018), and seven in his third year (2019).
However, in the last year of his rookie contract (2020), he exploded with 14 sacks and a PFF pass-rush grade of 77.0. The Bengals signed him to a four-year, $60 million contract before the 2021 season to replace edge rusher Carl Lawson, who signed with the New York Jets in free agency.
Hendrickson immediately showed the Bengals it was money well spent as he racked up 20 sacks throughout the 2021 regular and postseason, helping the Bengals not only win their first playoff game in over 30 years but also reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1980s.
Hendrickson seemingly took a step back in 2022, recording only nine sacks. However, his pass rush grade actually improved from 2021 to 2022. In 2021, Hendrickson earned an 86.9 pass-rush grade from PFF. He recorded 20 sacks, 14 hits, and 53 hurries. Then in 2022, he recorded nine sacks, 19 hits, and 46 hurries for a pass-rush grade of 87.7.
Outlook for 2023 season
Hendrickson is the best pass rusher along the Bengals' defensive line.
Yes, the team also has Joseph Ossai and opposite defensive end Sam Hubbard, and while both players have been very productive, neither of them has the penchant for rushing the passer from the edge that Hendrickson has. And Ossai will miss the early part of the regular season with a high ankle injury.
Hendrickson’s pass-rush ability stems from a refined set of pass-rush moves, including a side-scissor move that utilizes his quickness. He uses his leverage to boost his strength and mitigate the negative impact of having shorter-than-normal arms for a 4-3 defensive end. He also has a non-stop motor. Many of his sacks have been on second attempts while the quarterback is looking downfield for an open receiver.
Many Bengals fans, myself included, were upset at the departure of Lawson, who had 20 sacks over his four years with the Bengals. There was a general sense that Lawson was a “creator,” and Hendrickson was not but benefited from creators like Cam Jordan while with the Saints. That obviously has turned out to be not the case. Hendrickson has been every bit of a pass rusher as Lawson, and then some as well.
With the addition of Murphy in the edge rusher position, Hendrickson will hopefully be kept fresher throughout the season, allowing him to be just as productive, if not more productive, and hopefully, that productivity translates to more sacks.