Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency Questions

The Cincinnati Bengals free agency picture is murky, though the team has obvious needs. Their cap flexibility makes them an interesting team to watch in the upcoming months. With many teams in complicated cap room trouble, the Bengals have the cash to make a few big splashes. However, the team has a few key free agents that could cause the team to run out of room faster than some expect. 

Questions Surround Cincinnati Bengals as Free Agency Run Begins This Month

Ahead of the 2021 NFL off-season, the Bengals are faced with plentiful questions. However, they do have the assets needed to answer those questions, especially in regards to roster needs. The Bengals have roughly $57 million in estimated cap room, factoring in expected cuts. They also have all present and upcoming draft picks, including the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Regardless of the questions, there’s one obvious overtone; build around quarterback Joe Burrow

The Cincinnati Bengals free agency planning needs to make life easier for their young, franchise quarterback, especially while he is on his rookie contract. Cincinnati’s front office is responsible for building contending rosters around Burrow, particularly while they have him on his inexpensive rookie contract. The Bengals defense needs to do a better job getting the ball back to Burrow and the offense. And Cincinnati has two major free agents on defense, Carl Lawson and William Jackson III. Decisions on Lawson and Jackson will set the tone for the team’s ability to build a better defense for 2021. 

Where Does Retaining Carl Lawson Rank Among Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency Priorities?

The Bengals struggled to get to the opposing quarterback in 2020, and finished the season ranked last in sacks. However, their most effective pass rusher, 25-year-old defensive end Carl Lawson, is heading to the market. According to sources around the team, Lawson ranked atop the Bengals list of internal re-signing priorities. However, Lawson continues to advertise his free agency on social media. Lawson has been sharing impressive highlights and statistics on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, hinting at his interest in hearing free agent offers. 

But the Bengals might not be able to afford losing Lawson. While they will pursue a long-term deal, it seems more likely that he’ll receive a franchise tag on or ahead of March 9, 2021. The tag figure is $15.8 million for Lawson’s position (he could potentially receive a similar cash offer in free agency).

How Will the Bengals Address Their Offensive Line? 

Sources close to the team report that the Bengals will pursue offensive line upgrades this spring. While they probably aren’t among the major players in the Trent Williams‘ sweepstakes, it seems likely they will make a push for top-level talent. Joe Thuney is a popular name for the team, as the former-New England Patriots guard and Dayton native grew up a Bengals fan. Other premium options include right tackles, Taylor Moton and Daryl Williams. They’ll likely need to invest in a solid bargain lineman as well. Matt Feiler, Kelvin Beachum, and Joe Haeg are all veterans who could be affordable fits in Cincinnati. 

Look no further than Joe Burrow’s season-ending knee injury for evidence that the Bengals need offensive line help. The injury Burrow suffered against the Washington Football Team brought the Bengals blocking issues into the spotlight. Granted, many teams around the league are unhappy with their offensive line. However, the Bengals were statistically and visibly one of the worst groups last season. The only sure pieces on the offensive line are Jonah Williams (tackle) and Trey Hopkins, who tore his ACL in Week 17. Look for the Bengals to address the offensive line aggressively in the coming weeks. 

If William Jackson III Leaves, Where Will the Bengals Turn To at Outside Cornerback?

After spending $42 million on Trae Waynes a season ago, the Bengals need to spend on another free agent corner. While it might be William Jackson III, the team would have to sacrifice spending to fill other needs to retain the free agent. Instead, bargain shopping for veterans seems ideal. Ronald Darby of the Washington Football Team and Xavier Rhodes of the Indianapolis Colts represent potential good fits. However, there are plenty of solid, veteran options on the free-agent market this year. Their contract with Waynes likely prevents them from breaking the bank on the position this year. Further, they could address the position early in the 2021 NFL Draft. 

Will the Bengals Try To Keep A.J. Green in Town?

When the Bengals picked A.J. Green with the fourth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, they hit it out of the park. Over the last ten years in Cincinnati, he has become a fan favorite and a franchise hero. However, it is all but over, as Green will hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. Expect to see Green sign with a Super Bowl contender like the Green Bay Packers or Los Angeles Rams. Rumors are circulating that Green has an interest in reuniting with ex-Bengals teammate Marvin Jones III. Stranger things have happened and the club could try to retain Green on a discount but after a down year in 2020, it’s seemingly off the table. 

Which Bengals Unrestricted Free-Agent Will Be Retained for 2021?

Look for the Bengals to retain some of their key veterans from a season ago. Mike Daniels and Josh Bynes were both solid and played leadership roles. Retaining those two keeps familiar faces in the system who can play reliable snaps. Additionally, Quinton Spain makes sense to keep in town. Spain joined the team in the middle of the season after being cut by the Buffalo Bills and was very solid at guard. Longtime special teams player and backup slot receiver Alex Erickson might also be in the team’s plans, considering his consistent play. Unless they find a new returner in the draft, Erickson makes sense to keep in town. The same can be said for Samaje Perine as the team’s third running back. Perine was solid in 2020 when he filled in for an injured Joe Mixon

Who Will Be the Cincinnati Bengals Biggest Splash?

There are some interesting options on the table for the Cincinnati Bengals free agency run. Certainly, they could chase someone like Shaquil Barrett to make up for their 2019 blunder. Further, they could go over-the-top and pay Trent Williams more than any other team is willing to. However, the signing that makes the most sense is Joe Thuney. Thuney is projected to land a four-year, $57 million contract in Cincinnati per Pro Football Focus. The high-dollar investment would help the franchise’s interest in protecting franchise passer Joe Burrow. This move would send a welcome and exciting message to the team and fan base. 

While there is plenty of time for the situation to stir in Cincinnati, their free agency options are wide open. Prioritizing Joe Burrow’s protection seems like a logical starting point. However, with so many needs up and down the roster, they could go in many different directions. While negotiating new deals with Jackson and Lawson complicate the Cincinnati Bengals free agency plans, their cap situation is ideal for additions.

Main Photo

Embed from Getty Images