If you are a Cincinnati Bengals fan, 2021-22 must still seem like a dream. Lord knows if I pinch myself anymore, CPS might get involved. However, that doesn’t mean work in Queen City is done. No, far from it.
While the Bengals have significantly fewer holes to fill than in any season in recent memory, there are still holes. Anyone that watched the team play last year knows the Bengals are in dire need of help on the offensive line, which was very offensive at times last year.
On defense, the secondary played well as a whole, but the lack of a true shut down corner ultimately bit the team as Eli Apple was unable to stop Cooper Kupp in Super Bowl LVI.
Of course, it could be argued, who stopped Kupp at all last season? Good question, but with Apple potentially out the door, and rookies typically not stepping in and playing at a high level in the secondary, help must be found.
With the beginning of the legal tampering and free agency looming, the time is right for the Bengals to spend some of that roughly $35 million in cap space that they are sitting on.
Now of course they can’t spend ALL of that on free agents, as money has to be put back for rookies, injury settlements, etc, but the team is still in an enviable position. Few real holes to fill and flush with cash to fill them with.
So who does the team target to bolster the holes and attempt to run it back and win a Super Bowl in 2022? Let’s take a quick look at several free agents the Cincinnati Bengals should go hard for in 2022.
Cincinnati Bengals may go hard on a few
When signing free agents, it’s not always as easy as getting a name on a contract. Several factors need to be accounted for.
The best-case scenario is a young player coming off their first contract. This can be hard to pull off since teams tend to want to keep their players.
Let’s take a look at who’s available that the Bengals may go hard at.
Terron Armstead, OT
Probably the top player at his position in an area of super need for the Bengals, however, the type of contract he will command just doesn’t fit the team’s spending history.
Brandon Scherff, G
Scherff earned $33 million over the last two years playing under the franchise tag in Washington. A premium player at his position, but likely more than the team will spend.
J.C. Jackson, CB
The New England corner is still young at 26, and has 25 picks since 2018. He’s the type of ball-hawking corner that could dominate the inconsistent passers in the AFC North.
Should be the Bengals top priority.
Second wave targets for Cincinnati Bengals
Historically the Bengals find very good value in the second week of free agency. The plan to let teams overpay while they lay in wait and snag quality, cost-effective players on team-friendly deals. It’s one of the very reasons the team doesn’t find itself in untenable cap positions.
Unfortunately, since teams tend to go hog wild, while the following players SHOULD be second wave signings, they well may be gone in the first few days.
Morgan Moses, OT
We don’t necessarily think of any Jets as being good free-agent finds, so Morgan Moses could fall into the second week. Moses is 31 but has started every game for seven straight seasons, and he’s an exceptional pass blocker, which the Bengals desperately need.
Brian Allen, C
Allen plays in the same zone blocking scheme the Bengals employ, though at times he gets pushed a bit in pass protection. However, he is nimble and can move and would be a good bargain fit in Frank Pollack’s zone-blocking scheme.
O.J. Howard, TE
A former first-round pick, Howard never lived up to his potential in Tampa but is that all his fault? Two coaching regimes and the addition of Tom Brady and his BFF Rob Gronkowski didn’t help Howard’s production.
Howard is still young and can be employed as a “move” tight end to give Joe Burrow yet another middle-of-the-field stretching option. Howard should be available on a “prove it” type deal.
Bargain bin finds for Cincinnati Bengals
Jabrill Peppers, S
Peppers has never fulfilled the promise out of Michigan, but he is still young and is coming off a torn ACL in week 7. If his knee is sound, Peppers could set up for a 1-year deal to reset his value for another contract.
Dante Fowler Jr., Edge
Despite the first-round pedigree, Fowler has turned out to be nothing more than a situational edge rusher. He’s not an every-down starter but could contribute as a third-down rusher.
The Bengals are a case study for how much a good pass rush can benefit a defence. Cincinnati went from 17 sacks in 2020 to 41 and a Super Bowl in 2021.
Malik Hooker, S
You can’t get enough help on the back end. And the addition of a rotational guy with versatility like Hooker could pay big dividends late in the season when guys start to get banged up.
Likely could be had on a one-year deal.
The Bengals have the money, the needs, and there are plenty of players wanting to play with Joe Burrow. This should result in another NFL free agent haul that could potentially land the Bengals in the Arizona desert for Super Bowl LVII.
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