The Cincinnati Bengals had another hot-and-cold season in 2014, making it to the playoffs for the fourth straight season but also losing in the first round for the fourth straight season. The team looked spectacular some weeks during the regular season and simply putrid during other games, so there is definitely room for improvement. In the NFL, improving over the off-season comes via two avenues: free agency and the NFL Draft. With the NFL Combine wrapping up in Indianapolis and free agency set to open on March 10, now is the time to start thinking about where the Bengals greatest needs lie.
More from Cincinnati Bengals
- Terrell Pryor Foolishly Posts Cincinnati Bengals Minicamp videos to Twitter
- AJ McCarron and Bengals: Pryor’s Release Shows QB Confidence
- Reds and Royals Series Preview
- 2015 NFL Draft: Cincinnati Bengals Prep Sheet
- Cincinnati Bengals to Sign Free Agent DE Michael Johnson
Whether through free agency, the draft or internal player development, the Bengals most need to address these areas.
The Bengals ranked last in the NFL with 20 sacks last season, so it’s not hard to pick shoring up the pass rush as a priority. Whether through free agency or the draft, expect the Bengals to pick up at least one DE and maybe more.
Offensive Line Depth
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is entering the final year of his contract, so this may be the time to bring in his eventual replacement to learn as much as possible from the veteran. Guard Clint Boling will be a free agent next month, so that is another position to keep an eye on. Considering also that the Bengals released Mike Pollak last week, we’re certain to see new faces on the O-line this fall.
Wide Receiver Depth
When they’re healthy, A.J. Green and Marvin Jones form one of the top receiving duos in the league, but they had all kinds of trouble staying on the field in 2014. Mohamed Sanu had a breakout first half of the season but slowed considerably as the year wore on, and all three of Andy Dalton’s favorite targets will be free agents in 2016 — though Green might get franchised. In all, there is too much uncertainty in the WR corps for the Bengals to NOT look for other options.
With Vontaze Burfict in and out of the lineup all season, Cincinnati allowed 1861 yards on the ground last year, 13th worst in the NFL. Rey Maualuga might well walk as an unrestricted free agent, and Burfict’s health is uncertain, so the Bengals will think hard about adding to their group of linebackers.
Jermaine Gresham failed to produce when given more chances during Green’s absence, and he seems to have worn out his welcome in Cincinnati. Tyler Eifert ended the season early due to injury, and the Bengals need to make sure they have at least one pass-catching option at TE, so they may look to add in this area.
The Bengals are a bona fide playoff team and have been for four years, so we shouldn’t expect a major shakeup anywhere on the team. Still, these areas of needs will be addressed, in some form or another, over the next two months of free agency and the NFL Draft.