On the first day of free agency, Trey Hendrickson and the Cincinnati Bengals agreed to a four-year contract. The deal, reported by Tom Pelisaro, is set to be a four-year, $60 million agreement. Hendrickson, last year’s third-ranking sack leader, brings his finishing talents to a needy pass-rush unit. While the Trey Hendrickson signing has an impact in Cincinnati, more roster questions linger. While signing the young edge-rusher is a big start, the Bengals still have more work to do in free agency. Regardless, Hendrickson brings excitement to a decomposing defensive group.
With Trey Hendrickson Signing, Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Renovation Continues
Before signing with the Bengals this off-season, Hendrickson spent his first four seasons with the New Orleans Saints. He now joins former teammate Vonn Bell, who singed with the Bengals during the prior off-season, in Cincinnati. One of last year’s breakout players, Trey Hendrickson adds immediate production to a rocky Cincinnati defensive group. The team finished with just 17 sacks during the 2020 season, the worst total in the NFL. Hendrickson led the way for the Saints, who had 45 sacks a season ago, eighth-best in the league. He finished tied for second with Aaron Donald with 13.5 sacks, just 1.5 behind T.J. Watt. In 2020, he finished 26th among edge rushers in ESPN’s pass rush win rate statistic.
While the Hendrickson signing brought some excitement to Cincinnati, it does come following a tough loss. Carl Lawson agreed to leave the Bengals for the New York Jets, inking a three-year, $45 million pact. When Hendrickson was initially rumored to have interest in Cincinnati, the pairing of his finishing ability and Lawson’s pressure rate made a lot of sense. Instead, Cincinnati now has the task of finding players to compliment Hendrickson. Regardless, Hendrickson became one of the largest average-annual value signings in franchise history and he is expected to play a major role in their defense.
Can Hendrickson Continue His Elite Production Without Elite Help?
Certainly, the Bengals still have more work to do in free agency; they probably need to add some insurance to their investment. Hendrickson was the product of playing alongside some elite defensive players in New Orleans. While the Bengals do have Jessie Bates III, they probably need to add some more elite talent on that side of the ball. There simply isn’t a Cameron Jordan to pair with Hendrickson in Cincinnati.
Trey Hendrickson took his game to the next level in his first season with a play time above 50%.
Hendrickson set a career-high in pressure rate (16.3%) on high volume (326 pass rushes), and generated the highest sack rate (4.1%) in a season since 2016 (min. 300 pass rushes). https://t.co/N5MX8GSxO7 pic.twitter.com/1y1oKMjdpn
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 16, 2021
Regardless, the presence of D.J. Reader alone will be beneficial for Hendrickson. During his time with the Houston Texans, Reader played a huge role on great defensive lines. Pairing Reader with Trey Hendrickson will allow him to reprieve a role he played alongside J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. While Reader is coming off a significant injury, he was really impressive when healthy. Hendrickson played quite well last season alongside another established interior tackle in Sheldon Rankins. The Bengals could do themselves a favor by adding Rankins to their core of defensive linemen. Rankins helped create pressure on many of Hendrickson’s sacks in New Orleans a season ago.
Adding Another Edge Will Benefit Trey Hendrickson and Bengals Alike
With Hendrickson under contract, the Bengals still need to find more options to pressure the quarterback. On their current roster, Sam Hubbard is a good defensive end and a player worth keeping in stripes. However, he’s a much better run defender than a pass rusher. Hubbard ranked first in ESPN’s run stop win rate during the 2020 season. However, he finished with a 59.1 pass-rush grade according to Pro Football Focus, as compared to a 69.1 run-stop grade. Conversely, Hendrickson posted a 54.8 run-stop grade compared to a 78 pass-rush grade. Unless the Bengals are betting on a huge production leap from 2020 fifth-rounder Khalid Kareem, their current group isn’t good enough. Lou Anarumo, who is returning as defensive coordinator in 2021, needs more weapons than in previous seasons.
Emphasized by the subtraction of Lawson, the team needs to find more players who can create pressure. That could come in free agency, where the Bengals still have a lot of cash left to spend. Veteran standouts like Clowney, Melvin Ingram, and Aldon Smith are on the table. Rising pass-rushers like Haason Reddick and Tarell Basham could also be appealing. Regardless, the Bengals need to find help to replace what they’re losing due to Lawson’s departure. Hendrickson is going to need teammates around him who can create pressure to have another year like his 2020 campaign. The Bengals, again, have very flexible cash at the moment, but they can’t afford to miss on the next wave of free agents.
What’s Next for the Cincinnati Bengals Free Agent Spending Cycle?
Though some fans might have expected more from Cincinnati on day one, they could make more splash signings in the coming days. The Bengals made some noise on Monday with the Trey Hendrickson signing, but much more is needed if they hope to make the playoffs next season. Seemingly, the team is still in need of an outside and nickel cornerback. According to one rumor, the team has an interest in former Pittsburgh Steelers corner Mike Hilton. They also hosted A.J. Bouye for a free-agent visit on Monday. The team seems to be addressing their defensive unit out of the gate this off-season.
Meanwhile, they have an obvious need for offensive line help to project Joe Burrow. While Trey Hendrickson’s contract is a big cap hit for the Bengals, they have a lot of room to make more moves. For a team with many needs, they have some strong options on the board. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the loss of Lawson conflicts with the addition of Hendrickson. Still, they added a breakout star from a season ago and certainly inked a strong edge rusher.