While the primary free agency window brought in many new faces, a few more free agents could seal the deal on a successful overhaul for the Cinncinnati Bengals. Overall, the team has re-made a few position groups and built up a lot more depth. Regardless, with money left to spend and holes left to fill, the Bengals can continue building on a big off-season. Certainly, they’ve answered some of their biggest lingering question marks but still have glaring questions. Depth is still an important area for the Bengals to look at in the coming weeks.
Cincinnati Bengals Free Agents Targets Following 2021 NFL Draft
With the roster picture starting to clarify, the initial Bengals free agent haul looks like it solidified some areas of need. Still, the team has some leftover cash and roster spots, giving them time to add. In the past and especially under Marvin Lewis, this has been a fruitful time on the calendar for Cincinnati. Currently, they’re in the position to further build around Joe Burrow, the key mission of this off-season. They’ve addressed a vast majority of the starting spots on this roster. However, they suffered in areas of depth last season, which led to major struggles.
Heading into pre-season training, the team could bolster a few more areas of need. On paper, the offense could use a boost to the back-end of their receiver and tackle rooms. They’re squared away with starters for those positions, but more help would be beneficial. Meanwhile, the defense looks very young at the linebacker position, plus needs another three-technique on the line. Fortunately, the team has $16.8 million in effective cap space remaining. That’s the sixth-most effective cap space in the league with 14 camp spots still open. While they’re rumored to be targeting extensions for Jessie Bates III and Sam Hubbard, they have the chance to add. Further, the team could further take advantage of the market with June 1st cuts. Teams like the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints need to find ways to get under the cap on or before that date. For now, there’s a good remaining crop of free agent targets for the Cincinnati Bengals to consider.
Dede Westbrook, Wide Reciever
Rumored as a target by the Cincinnati Bengals, Dede Westbrook is an interesting improvement option for the team. Currently, they lack depth behind their top-end group of Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tyler Boyd. Westbrook, a former first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, fits the team’s special teams and passing game needs. While he would only eat up 15-20% of snaps, Westbrook provides some speed and return game intrigue. He’s only compiled 1,720 yards and 10 touchdowns in four seasons, grabbing 6.8 yards per target. In Cincinnati, he’d have a much better quarterback situation. Further, he fills the void at punt returner left by Alex Erickson. With Jacksonville, Westbrook averaged 9.8 yards per return including a 74-yard return to the house in 2018. Not an amazing option, but one that gives Cincinnati some upside if he works out well.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End
Sometimes reunions are a lot of fun. Bringing Tyler Eifert back to Cincinnati after one year with the Jaguars would be a lot of fun. Certainly, not the player he was five years ago, Eifert would be a proven commodity for the Bengals. It’s hard to undersell the importance of Eifert’s familiarity with the Bengals current system. His 2019 season in Zac Taylor’s offense wasn’t great, but it showed his ability to play a limited role in the scheme. In 2019, Eifert had 436 yards and three touchdowns on 43 receptions. His red zone value could be ideal for Burrow, who loves looking for his tight ends in that situation. Eifert is also a close friend of C.J. Uzomah, so it wouldn’t bother the current starter by any means. While the Bengals might look for more high-end with their remaining cash, Eifert would be a fun return for fans.
Dennis Kelly, Offensive Tackle
Dennis Kelly won’t blow anyone away, but the tackle gives this Cincinnati Bengals free agent class a tad more depth. He’s a big-bodied tackle with nine years of professional football under his belt. Earning a 65.9 offensive grade (via Pro Football Focus) in 2020 playing starting snaps in Tennessee, Kelly can play solid football. In Cincinnati, he would be an enticing backup piece behind Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff. Certainly, he would be a more comfortable backup than the still-young Hakeem Adeniji and Fred Johnson. While he would steal snaps from younger players, the Bengals need some veteran security behind their starting blockers.
Jurrell Casey, Defensive Tackle
Amongst the more proven pass rushers left on the market, Jurrell Casey feels like a potential steal wherever he lands. Casey’s lone year away from the Tennessee Titans didn’t work out well, as the team traded him to the Denver Broncos. He missed much of the year, but had lingering ill-will towards Tennessee, saying the team, “discarded him like trash”. With a Titans reunion unlikely, the Bengals would benefit from a Casey addition. After all, Casey posted five sacks in 2019, his last full campaign. The team needs a three-technique behind Larry Ogunjobi and Casey provides a proven option.
Kwon Alexander, Linebacker
Former Pro Bowl linebacker Kwon Alexander split time between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints last season in a down year. Usually impressive in coverage, he struggled to find his rhythm last season and wound up being cut following the 2020 season. Now, he’s a free agent that provides a high upside for just about any team. Cincinnati needs more linebacker depth behind a very young core and the 26-year-old Alexander brings that to the table. With good speed and instincts in coverage, he would be a welcome veteran in the linebacker room.
Josh Bynes, Linebacker
Logically, bringing Josh Bynes back to Cincinnati makes a lot of sense. The veteran linebacker and Super Bowl champion seemingly bought into this Bengals team last season and played solid football. His 52.6 defensive grade, per Pro Football Focus, isn’t super impressive, but his leadership seemed quite valuable. With Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt looking to evolve into three-down linebackers, having a vet like Bynes seems smart. Without many ideal suitors left in the market for the linebacker, the Bengals should be able to make an easy deal.
Odds the Cincinnati Bengals Add More Free Agents
Seemingly, this Cincinnati Bengals team is still a few players away from being competitive in 2021. As a whole, they’ve made themselves a much tougher opponent with their overall off-season haul. Still, adding some of these veterans down the stretch could prove to be a major benefit. With Burrow still on his rookie contract, it’ll be important to maximize this window. That being said, there is reason to believe the Bengals add more free agents before the season begins.
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