The Cincinnati Bengals had a bountiful first week of free agency via trade (Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn), a rare unrestricted free-agent signing (Bills middle linebacker Preston Brown), and a re-signing (tight end Tyler Eifert).
The good news is it filled three prime needs, particularly Glenn since left tackle was a gaping hole last year and was their No. 1 problem as quarterback Andy Dalton struggled in the face of pressure from all over. Brown, the NFL’s leading tackler, upgrades them hugely after Kevin Minter’s failed year in the middle. Eifert has played just eight games since he went to the 2015 Pro Bowl and if he’s anywhere near that 13-touchdown season, then A.J. Green has that badly needed running mate he’s been seeking since the 2016 departures of wide receiver Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
The not so bad news is they went about $10 million beyond their budget in free agency and most likely are going to unload some salary after the draft. With 11 selections, they will have their pick.
Here is a closer look at where the Bengals are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.
2017 finish: 3rd AFC North (7-9)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 280.5 (32nd)
RUSHING: 85.4 (31st)
PASSING: 195.1 (27th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 339.1 (18th)
RUSHING: 127.9 (30th)
PASSING: 211.2 (8th)
- Offensive line: Despite the Glenn trade, the line still needs to be beefed up. It’s still the No. 1 priority as they come off the worst rushing production in franchise history
- Run stuffer: They need some beef to put next to six-time Pro Bowl three technique Geno Atkins. They are hopeful that 2016 fourth-rounder Andrew Billings, a nose tackle, rebounds in his second year after a knee injury wiped out his rookie season. Last year’s fourth-rounder, Ryan Glasgow, proved he will be a blue-collar contributor at both nose and behind Atkins in a rotation. But they need some size. Billings is 6-foot-1 and Glasgow goes about 300 pounds. They could use some more height and weight.
- Centerfielder: They need a safety that can pick off the ball. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard, with two, was the only Bengal with multiple interceptions last season, when their 11 interceptions were the fewest in 15 seasons under head coach Marvin Lewis.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
–TE Tyler Eifert: UFA; $5.5M/1 yr, $3M SB.
–P Kevin Huber: UFA; $7.95M/3 yrs, $1.55M fully guaranteed/$1.05M SB/$500K RB.
–DT Chris Baker: FA Buccaneers; $2.45M/1 yr, $300K SB.
–QB Matt Barkley: UFA Cardinals; $3.35M/2 yrs, $500K SB.
–LB Preston Brown: UFA Bills; $4M/1 yr, $2M SB/$1M WO.
–T Cordy Glenn (trade Bills).
–T Bobby Hart: FA Bengals; $1.005M/1 yr, $50K SB/$200K RB.
–C Russell Bodine: UFA Bills; $5M/2 yrs, $2.15M guaranteed/$1M SB.
–RB Jeremy Hill: UFA Patriots; $1.5M/1 yr, $150K SB.
–QB AJ McCarron: UFA Bills; $10M/2 yrs, $6M guaranteed ($1.1M injury only at signing, $4M SB).
–T Andre Smith: UFA Cardinals; $8M/2 yrs, $2.585M SB.
–DE Chris Smith: UFA Browns; $12M/3 yrs, $4.5M fully guaranteed/$3.5M SB.
*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 21 overall)
Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):
–Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio. Last year’s selection of speedy wideout John Ross proved yet again that the Bengals are more willing than most to gamble on athletic upside. While still quite raw, few offer more intriguing potential than Davenport, a 6-6, 264-pounder with 4.58 speed who could go earlier than many expect due to his own upside, as well as the relative lack of top-end edge rushers in this year’s draft.
Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):
–James Daniels, G/C, Iowa. The Bengals need to make overhaul additions to the offensive line, making tackle or interior line a possibility here. Daniels is an athletic center with the size and strength potential to also fill in at guard.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.