Last season was a tale of two halves. After Week 8 the Bengals were 5-3 and Andy Dalton was playing arguably the best football of his career. Injuries to A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Andy Dalton and losing Carl Lawson early to a torn ACL derailed their season completely.
It’s no wonder the Bengals lost when you see they allowed an average of 413.6 yards per game, the most in the league. Their 28.4 average points allowed placed them 30th.
Cincinnati have a significant amount of cap space for free Agency 2019. The salary cap has been set at $188.2 million meaning the Bengals have $49,492,713 in cap space.
Players who will become free agents
Unrestricted free agents
(Free to sign with any team)
QB Tom Savage, TE Tyler Eifert, TE Tyler Kroft, TE C.J. Uzomah, T Cedric Ogbuehi, T Bobby Hart , T Andre Smith, DE Michael Johnson, LB Preston Brown, LB Vincent Rey, CB Darqueze Dennard
Restricted free agents
(Free to sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Bengals have the right to match it)
G Trey Hopkins
Exclusive free agents
(Can only sign with the Bengals, unless the team decides not to make an offer by March 13)
G Alex Redmond
Possible Free Agent Targets
1) Injuries and age left the Bengals linebacking corp a mess in 2018. They shouldn’t even think of re-signing Preston Brown or Vincent Rey. In addition they should probably cut Vontaze Burfict as his effectiveness diminished even when he was available.
Adding two players to this position group would allow the Bengals some flexibility in the draft. I’ve previously written about C.J. Mosley landing here and it still makes sense. Adding a great playmaker from a division rival would be a coup. Should K.J. Wright decide it’s time for a change he’d also be an upgrade.
Eagle’s Free Agent Jordan Hicks is a difference maker but he has been unable to stay healthy for a full season. Despite only playing 12 games in 2018 he racked up 91 tackles and 3 sacks. Playing behind Geno Atkins, Sam Hubbard and co. would allow Hicks to flow to the ball and use his coverage skills. The market for Hicks is unclear due to his durability questions battling his talent but he would be a quality addition.
2) Offensive tackle is an area of need, just as it was last year. Luckily for the Bengals they have significant cap space and the Jaguars just released Jeremy Parnell. Parnell is an upgrade over any of the Bengals impending free agents. He’s a dominant blocker at times and more agile than most men his size as you can see from Fran Duffy’s breakdown below.
Shot 6 – LT has been a bit of a sore spot due to injuries this year but this is a physical offensive line. Jeremy Parnell is a guy who really impressed me over the summer, I've always liked AJ Cann going back to college, and they gave a boatload of money to Andrew Norwell too pic.twitter.com/zTICMxbDa7
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 26, 2018
I would stay away from Trent Brown, as Patriots linemen often do not fare well on other teams. However, another AFC East tackle would be a solid addition; Ja’Wuan James of the Dolphins. He’s a good pass blocker who would help protect Dalton.
3) Tyler Eifert was a star in 2015. Since then he’s played only 14 games as a result of a litany of injuries. It’s time the Bengals move on and adding a veteran like Jared Cook would provide a safety blanket for the quarterback. Cook was one of the few bright spots for the Raiders, and set career highs in both yards (896) and touchdowns (6). He would provide the team with a receiving option at tight end as well as veteran leadership
Should the Bengals decide to look for a younger option on a longer contract then Jesse James. James has been underused in Pittsburgh and wasn’t even a starter for the majority of 2018. He still showed an ability as a receiver when called upon, collecting 423 yards and an average of 14.1 yards per catch.
Bringing in either player would allow the Bengals to play the middle of the field more and free up their talented receivers to make plays.
4) The Bengals failed to bring in competition for Andy Dalton in 2018 and it hurt them when Dalton went down in Week 12. Dalton showed signs of life when heathy, posting a 100+ quarterback rating 4 times but a 4 interception game against Carolina showed why they need competition. Now, new head coach Zac Taylor, who will call the offensive plays in 2019, has no allegiance to Dalton.
The quarterback market lacks star power other than Nick Foles who is expected to sign with Jacksonville. Cincinnati would be unlikely to pay Foles’ premium considering Dalton’s. Teddy Bridgewater makes sense but has little recent playing experience. Ryan Fitzpatrick would be an inexpensive option to push Dalton. He passed for 2,366 and 17 touchdowns in just 8 games (7 starts). The negative with ‘Fitzmagic’ is the interceptions, he threw 12 in the same 8 games. He would offer veteran leadership in a return to the Bengals though.
The Bengals still have a lot of talent heading into free agency. Adding linebackers must be a priority and another quality tackle would go a long way to improving a team that looks to be rebuilding. If they don’t add a veteran quarterback I’d be surprised but Cincinnati will hope they can avoid the injury bug next season.
Enjoy this article? Feel free to leave a comment or follow more of my writing on Twitter @Cumbleton. I write about the AFC North for Ninety Nine Yards, covering the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers and also cover the AAF.