With the Super Bowl just days away, Cincinnati Bengals fans are just trying to look forward to next season. There are so many unknowns heading into this offseason, but there are a bunch of predictions looming.
This year will be a tad different than last season. The Bengals definitely had a few positions to keep an eye on and target during the draft after the loss of some key players in free agency, but this year might be just as important, if not, more.
I already released my predictions of who the Bengals will keep or let walk, and I most likely won’t be 100% correct, but that’s why it’s just a prediction. The closer we get to the draft and free agency moves, my mind starts to wander a bit, and I have to think a bit harder and analyze more.
The Bengals have almost two dozen players who are free agents, and the only people who have any clue what is going to happen is the front office.
Last week, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic released a mock offseason. This allows anybody to walk a mile in the Bengals front office and decide who they will re-sign, cut, sign through free agency, etc.
ICYMI | Fourth annual #Bengals Mock Offseason has arrived.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) January 25, 2024
Take your shot at molding the roster. Make every cut, free-agent signing, extension and draft pick your heart desires.
Just keep it under the cap.
(Screenshot me those final results!)https://t.co/uoEqBCAxS2
I gave it a try, and it is tough.
It puts in perspective how hard their job is. It’s impossible to get it 100% right without the knowledge of everybody involved. It’s also hard to do when you’re thinking with your heart and not your head. This is the results I came up with.
I don’t expect everybody to agree with me, but this is what I’m expecting to happen. The only major change I made, which was a little unfortunate, is that I predicted they snag a tight end in free agency, I don’t know who, but I picked Dalton Schultz.
Here’s where some people may disagree. There are a lot of folks out there who want them to draft a tight end early in the draft. I don’t like that since there are other positions they need to focus on early. Schultz has proven to be a solid tight end for the Texans this year and the Cowboys before that.
I always tell people the Bengals shouldn’t draft a tight end early because they don’t utilize that position like other teams; the Chiefs with Kelce, the 49ers with Kittle, the Patriots with Gronkowski, etc. But maybe that’s because we never had a true No. 1 tight end.
This one is interesting because I truly don’t know, but I’m trying to think without my heart, but it’s tough. Most people I talk to think there is no chance in hell the Bengals are able to re-sign everybody, but why not? Money? Maybe, but let’s think about it.
Injuries got the best of the Bengals this season, nobody can argue that. With the entire offseason to rest, everybody should be healthy, and they will be back to the Bengals squad everybody knows and loves. That also means they are the same very talented and skilled Bengals squad that has potential for the Super Bowl every year.
This is a Bengals team where the chemistry and culture are different than any other team in the league. Does money speak louder than chemistry and fun? Most people say yes, but I don’t.
People say there’s no way the Bengals are able to or should resign our trio of receivers, and if they do, Burrow has to restructure his contract. Then I’m confused, wasn’t this already considered when Burrow signed his record-breaking contract? That was Burrow’s main concern when he signed, was the capability to re-sign all of his guys back, and that was said in numerous interviews.
This was right before Joe signed his massive deal. Joe signed this deal with the intention the Bengals front office was also going to ink all of his weapons.
I also decided to re-sign DJ Reader. You can’t just look at in-game performance; you also have to look at inside the locker room. Reader isn’t just a game wrecker when he’s playing, but he’s also a leader in the locker room.
Is he a little older? Yes, but that doesn’t necessarily scream no more game left. Some people also worry about injury, and that’s valid, but you also have to realize these players not only have the remainder of the season to recover, but also the entire offseason to lay low and get healthy. Reader ranks as the league's 9th-best interior defensive lineman. You can’t let him go.
I also predict the Bengals cut Nick Scott. The Bengals signed him last offseason in free agency from the Rams, and he didn’t exceed expectations, while Jordan Battle proved he deserves the spot. Cutting him will give the team an extra $2 million to put towards somebody else.
This mock offseason also gave you the opportunity to pick the Bengals' top three draft picks, which is almost impossible until after the combine. I’ve already completed dozens of mock drafts, and there’s already a pattern with whom I select.
The biggest areas of concern are the offensive line (again), defensive line, secondary and defensive backs, and punter. Seems like a lot, but not necessarily.
Burrow had another season-ending injury, and no, it’s not because he’s injury-prone; it's because there have only been a handful of games in the last three years when he has been able to sit back comfortably and throw the ball. In the games where this happened, he has thrown for over 300 yards, and the Bengals win. It’s not hard math. They need to solidify that line and make it the most elite offensive line in the game, especially if they don’t want to waste their money on Burrow and have him get hit and sacked time and time again.
Defensively this year, I hate to say, but besides creating turnovers, the defense did not look good. Their only hope for the run defense was with Hubbard and Reader playing, and both players were hurt for part of the season. They gave up 126 yards per game on the ground. This defensive line needs to win in the trenches every play.
Defensive backs and secondary just weren’t good this year. The issue was, they had good players, but the play just wasn’t there. Cam Taylor-Britt was hurt for a big chunk of the season, which didn’t help at all. Awuzie came back from injury, but it was obvious he lost a step covering receivers.
DJ Turner, a rookie out of Michigan, showed a lot of promise, but he didn’t play all the time. DJ Ivey, a rookie out of Miami, also showed some promise but got hurt at the end of the season. Dax Hill and Jordan Battle played well for the most part, but this was also Hill’s first full season and Battle’s rookie season, rotating with Nick Scott.
They need a tune-up this offseason. They gave up nearly 250 yards through the air per game and 375 yards total per game. You just aren’t going to win a lot of games giving up that much, even with a stellar offense. Six of the top 10 best teams in total yards allowed made it to the playoffs, while only three of the bottom 10 teams made it.
Do you see the correlation?
Plain and simple they need a new punter. They drafted Robbins in a later round out of Michigan, mainly for his hang time. But, hang time doesn’t matter when you’re only punting in 30-40 yards. He was one of the best college punters in 2022 and finished his rookie year as the NFL’s third-worst punter, second-worst in the AFC, averaging only 44 yards per punt.
The Bengals have a lot on their plate this offseason, but we have one of the best front office staff in the league, it’s time for them step up and show once again, they know what they’re doing.