The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off of one of their worst seasons in franchise history. First-year coach Zac Taylor led his squad to a lowly 2-14 record. There is no time to waste. The Bengals need to embrace a full-fledged rebuild as owners of the first pick in the draft and with roughly $45M in cap space to spend. In addition to the draft and free agency, the Bengals could look to trade players with expiring contracts or cut players with non-guaranteed money.
Here’s a breakdown of potential players the Bengals could consider moving this offseason.
Andy Dalton: Rumors have continued to swirl around the Bengals 9-year signal-caller. Last season, Andy Dalton only completed 59.5% of his passes, the lowest since his rookie year. His 16 touchdowns and 37.0 quarterback rating were both the lowest marks of his career. Dalton might be on his way out of Cincinnati since the Bengals could save $17.7M by cutting him. He has the Patriots, Bears, and Colts as potential trade suitors, however, the Bengals have to weigh what is more important to them: keeping an experienced quarterback around another year, saving $17.7M, or getting a mid-round draft pick. My Prediction: The Bengals trade him to the Patriots for a 3rd round pick.
Dre Kirkpatrick: Dre Kirkpatrick’s career can be defined in four words, injury-prone and inconsistent. The veteran cornerback is the leader of the Bengals secondary but he has not yet played a full 16-game season with the Bengals. Last season, Kirkpatrick appeared in only six games with no interceptions. While the Bengals need cornerback depth, they could save roughly $8M by cutting him. My Prediction: The Bengals keep him around.
Cordy Glenn: Very rarely is there any drama to report about within the Bengals organization, but last season some words were said by Cordy Glenn, which earned him a one-game suspension. Last year he played in only six games, dealing with concussions throughout the entire season. With his concussion history and on the field success, the Bengals could cut him and save $9.5M. My Prediction: The Bengals release his contract.
A.J. Green: The 32-year-old free agent wideout has expressed a desire to stay loyal to the Bengals, however, he wants to get paid big. The Bengals don’t have a glaring need at wide receiver with Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Auden Tate, all 25 years old or younger. Unfortunately for the Bengals and media readers, Joe Burrow, who is expected to be the Bengals starting quarterback next year, has made it clear he wants to be throwing touchdowns to A.J. Green. The Bengals are reportedly looking to come to a contract agreement with Green, but they have stated they are not opposed to using the franchise tag. My Prediction: The Bengals ink Green to a four-year deal.
The Bengals have several upcoming contract extension candidates. Running back Joe Mixon is the front-runner to earn a massive contract this offseason. Mixon is the lone bright spot on the Bengals offense and has recorded back to back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. The Bengals could also look to extend cornerback William Jackson III who has endured two below-average seasons, following his 2017 breakout year. Additionally, Carl Lawson is a prime candidate to earn an extension. The 25-year-old had his season cut short due to injury, but when he’s on the field, he shows his potential. Other extension candidates are safety Shawn Williams, punter Kevin Huber, kicker Randy Bullock, wide receiver Alex Erickson, and wide receiver Auden Tate.
The Bengals desperately need to address their biggest weaknesses, the offensive line and linebacker unit. While the Bengals never tend to attract big-name free agents, an aggressive pursuit and an attractive offer can be hard for NFL players to decline. The Bengals should look to sign Patriots guard, Joe Thuney, an Ohio native, and 2019 second-team All-Pro. Cory Littleton, a 26-year-old linebacker on the Rams, is also another big-name free agent the Bengals should pursue. Littleton was the Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded tackler last season. Other offensive line targets include Brandon Scherff, Anthony Castonzo, Jack Conklin, and Bryan Bulaga. Linebackers are hard to come by during free agency but some of the big names the Bengals could target include Shaq Barrett, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Bud Dupree, and Joe Schobert.
The Bengals have a full offseason of work to do. Drastic changes need to happen if the Bengals want to improve from their two-win season. And as previous years have shown, the draft and free agency scraps don’t fix everything. The Bengals are going to need to get outside help from free agents. General manager, Mike Brown, has to be willing to take the necessary steps in the rebuilding process.