2019 NFL Offseason: Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals (Last Year: 6-10)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
G John Miller, DE Kerry Wynn, CB B.W. Webb.
Early Draft Picks:
OT/G Jonah Williams, TE Drew Sample, LB Germaine Pratt, QB Ryan Finley, DE/DT Renell Wren, G/C Michael Jordan. Bengals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
TE Tyler Kroft, OT Jake Fisher, ILB Vontaze Burfict.

2019 Cincinnati Bengals Offense:
Andy Dalton has been blamed for the offense’s incompetence in the past, particularly in playoff losses, but it would be wrong for him to shoulder the responsibility for the team struggling to score before he suffered a season-ending injury in late November. There were just far too many injuries on this side of the ball for Cincinnati to be functional.

The trouble started in the third quarter of the Atlanta game in Week 4. The Bengals had scored on every possession of that contest until star tight end Tyler Eifert suffered an injury. They sputtered after that, though they still found a way to win the game at the end. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, Eifert was the first of many players to go down. The team also lost Dalton, A.J. Green and several other key members of the roster. Cincinnati simply never had a chance.

That said, it might be difficult for Bengal supporters to feel optimistic about this team. Eifert is still very injury-prone, Green turns 31 right before the preseason, and Dalton is still a pedestrian signal-caller. Dalton can do very well with tons of talent around him, but what if Eifert gets hurt again, or if Green regresses a bit because of age? The Bengals might have to count on Tyler Boyd and John Ross to be productive. Boyd flashed last year, so he could become a viable No. 2, but Ross, despite being the ninth-overall pick a couple of years ago, seems like a lost cause.

Cincinnati’s offensive line will have to perform better as well, which could be a problem. The team was just 19th in pass-blocking efficiency last season, which would explain why the front office used its first-round pick on Jonah Williams. The Alabama lineman was hyped by the media, but other teams had serious question about his viability in the pros. Williams’ arms are too short for him to be a good tackle, and he’s not strong enough to be a guard. It seemed as though the strategy was for Williams to start at left tackle, but that plan went awry because of Williams’ torn labrum. With Williams out for the year, Cordy Glenn will remain on the blind side. Glenn’s bookend will be Bobby Hart, who is not a quality football player.

There was hope for the Bengals’ interior offensive line before the Williams injury. Glenn was supposed to move to left guard, but that won’t happen now. John Miller will be forced into the starting lineup, which is not ideal. Former first-round center Billy Price and Clint Boling will join Miller in the interior. Boling is mediocre, while Price struggled as a rookie last year, but has plenty of potential.

While the offensive line struggled to pass protect in 2018, the unit at least opened up running lanes rather well. Joe Mixon was able to benefit, rushing for 1,168 yards and eight touchdowns. Mixon figures to have a big season, and he may continue to improve as a passer; he snatched 43 receptions this past year.

2019 Cincinnati Bengals Defense:
The Bengals maintained a stellar defense in the early part of this decade, which was why they were able to make so many playoff appearances. The stop unit hasn’t been up to par in recent years, and that figures to once again be the case in 2019.

Cincinnati’s line is the best aspect of the team’s defense at the moment, thanks to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who is still performing on a high level. Atkins, despite now being 31, logged 10 sacks in 2018. He’ll begin to decline soon, but there haven’t been any signs of that. He’ll play next to either Andrew Billings, Kerry Wynn or Ryan Glasgow, depending on the situation. Glasgow was doing a great job as a run stopper before tearing his ACL in Week 3. Billings took over and filled the role well. Wynn, meanwhile, was signed this offseason. He’ll help Atkins generate some pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as will Sam Hubbard when he moves inside on passing downs; Hubbard had six sacks in 2018.

The Bengals have some good talent on the edge as well. Carlos Dunlap is the best defensive end on the roster, but Carl Lawson could challenge Dunlap for that distinction in 2019. Lawson was playing well in his second season last year before tearing his ACL in Week 8. Lawson figures to be 100 percent by the season opener.

While the Bengals were able to generate good pressure on opposing quarterbacks last year, despite the injury to Lawson, they were atrocious against the rush, ranking 29th in run defense efficiency. The culprit in this regard was the horrid play of the linebackers. Somehow, Cincinnati’s linebackers could be even worse in 2019 because of Vontaze Burfict’s departure. Nick Vigil appears to be the best player at the position, which is far from ideal. Perhaps Germaine Pratt will be able to help, but he’s just a third-round rookie. The Bengals have such poor play at linebacker that it would be an extreme disappointment if Pratt weren’t able to win a starting job right away.

Cincinnati’s secondary, meanwhile, isn’t in great shape either, but has way more talent than the linebacking corps. William Jackson is an excellent, young cornerback, while Darqueze Dennard plays very well in the slot, so re-signing him was a nice move. The Bengals aren’t in good shape across from Jackson, however, as Dre Kirkpatrick has struggled with injuries and mediocrity the past couple of seasons.

The Bengals also have a very promising, talented player at safety. That would be Jessie Bates, who just enjoyed a tremendous rookie campaign as a second-round pick. Bates should continue to improve, but Cincinnati will be wishing that it had someone better than Shawn Williams to start next to him. Williams missed too many tackles last season.

2019 Cincinnati Bengals Schedule and Intangibles:
Cincinnati has developed a strong home-field advantage recently, going 31-17-1 over the past six seasons. This, however, hasn’t mattered in the playoffs, as the Bengals lost to both the Chargers and Steelers as hosts.

The Bengals saw their kicker, Randy Bullock, do a mediocre job last season. He was 19-of-23, hitting just 2-of-5 tries from 50-plus.

Punter Kevin Huber ranked 20th in net yardage last season. He’s hovered around the middle of the pack the past several years.

Cincinnati’s special teams were very good otherwise last season, as the team outgained the opposition in punts and kickoff returns.

The Bengals could be in a hole early, as three of their first four games are on the road (Seahawks, Bills, Steelers). There will be easier non-divisional games after that, but no battle in the AFC North will be a cake walk.

2019 Cincinnati Bengals Rookies:
Go here for the Bengals Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2019 Cincinnati Bengals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Cincinnati Bengals Analysis: The Bengals suffered some terrible luck with injuries last year. However, having the players back to full health – save for Jonah Williams – may not translate into more wins. The Bengals haven’t improved themselves this offseason, and they won’t be coached as well with Marvin Lewis gone. With the Browns surging, it seems clear that the Bengals are the worst team in the AFC North. The good news, however, is that Cincinnati might have a chance to obtain one of the talented quarterbacks available in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Projection: 4-12 (4th in AFC North)

2018 Projection: 6-10. 2018 Actual Result: 6-10.
2017 Projection: 6-10. 2017 Actual Result: 7-9.
2016 Projection: 10-6. 2016 Actual Result: 6-9-1.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The Bengals have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. They have needs at almost every position, so it makes sense for them to trade down on multiple occasions in the 2019 NFL Draft.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I was very pessimistic about what the Bengals would do in the draft, given how poorly they butchered free agency. As it turns out, Cincinnati did a decent job on draft weekend for the most part.

That said, I wasn’t too thrilled with the Bengals’ initial two selections. Taking Jonah Williams drew some praise from the media, but Williams’ arms are too short to play tackle, and he’s not strong enough to hold up inside. He seems like a better version of Connor Williams, which is not good. Meanwhile, the Bengals used a second-round pick on blocking tight end Drew Sample, which was an insanely stupid decision. Blocking tight ends grow on trees. In fact, I’m looking out the window in my office, and there are eight blocking tight ends on the tree in my backyard. I think I’ll go pluck one off the tree when I’m done typing this. I’m not sure what I’ll do with this blocking tight end, but at least I didn’t use a second-round pick to get it.

Fortunately for the Bengals, their results improved considerably after the Sample blunder. Germaine Pratt, Ryan Finley, Renell Wren, Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson were all steals where the Bengals obtained them. These mega bargains salvaged what would’ve been a poor overall grade.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

11. Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama C+ Grade
I had Jonah Williams higher than this in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft, but only because that’s what I thought would happen. Some teams graded Williams in the bottom half of the opening round. The problem with Williams is that his arms are too short for a tackle, yet he’s not strong enough to be a guard. This is the problem Connor Williams had entering the 2018 NFL Draft, but to a lesser extent. I don’t think Jonah Williams will be a bust like Connor Williams, but Jonah doesn’t seem to have the upside to warrant a selection at No. 11 overall. I get why the Bengals drafted a lineman, but they probably should have gone in a different direction with so many talented defensive players on the board.

Oh no. Ooohhh nooo. Teams overpaid blocking tight ends in free agency, and now the Bengals used a second-round pick on one in the 2019 NFL Draft. Sample should have been chosen in the fifth or sixth round. I had him mocked at No. 174 overall. Teams have made mistakes in the past by using high selections on blocking tight ends, and this is yet another blunder.

72. Germaine Pratt, LB, N.C. State B+ Grade
The Bengals needed help at linebacker in the wake of Vontaze Burfict’s departure. I had Germaine Pratt going at the end of the second round, so this is decent value. Pratt is a terrific blitzer and run stopper. He’s not great in coverage, but not totally lost in that regard. The Bengals made a nice selection with Pratt.

104. Ryan Finley, QB, N.C. State A Grade
The Bengals jumped up six spots, leaping a couple of teams that could take quarterbacks (Raiders, Buccaneers). I thought Finley could’ve easily been chosen in the second round, so this is a great selection. Finley resembles Alex Smith, but with slightly less mobility. He could end up being an average starter, which is exceptional for a fourth-round pick.

125. Renell Wren, DE/DT, Arizona State B Grade
I thought there was a good chance Renell Wren could be chosen in the second round. I ultimately put him in the third frame, so I think he offers great value here. Wren is a bit raw, but he has tremendous athleticism. He also has very high character marks, so he’ll give the Bengals all he has.

136. Michael Jordan, G/C, Ohio State B+ Grade
Michael Jordan was an inconsistent player at Ohio State, looking great at times and awful on other occasions. However, he has good upside and versatility, as he can play both guard and center. He makes sense in this range, and he could end up starting for Cincinnati, given the poor state of its offensive line.

182. Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M A+ Grade
This is an absolute steal, and I can’t envision there being a better pick in the sixth round. Trayveon Williams was projected in the third or fourth frame. He was an excellent runner for Texas A&M, and he also had positive receiving skills. I don’t understand why Williams fell so much, but Cincinnati definitely got a great bargain.

210. Deshaun Davis, LB, Auburn C Grade
Deshaun Davis didn’t seem like a draftable prospect to me, so I’m surprised to see him come off the board in Round 6. He can be a thumper as a two-down run defender, but he gets completely lost in coverage and offers zero upside as a player with poor athleticism.

211. Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma A+ Grade
The Bengals have used two third-day picks on running backs, and both have been absolute steals. I can’t decide which pick is better, so they both deserve A+ grades. Rodney Anderson has more upside than Trayveon Williams, but his floor is lower because of his extensive injury history. If it wasn’t for that, Anderson may have drawn first-round consideration.

223. Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State A Grade
The Bengals made some terrific value selections on Day 3 of the draft, and this is one of them. Jordan Brown has some level-of-competition questions, but he was a sound cornerback at South Dakota State and projects well to the NFL because of his solid athleticism. Brown was also a team captain, so the Bengals will enjoy his high-character traits.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Bengals began the year at 4-1, but collapsed because of a torrent of injuries. Now, Marvin Lewis is gone, so the fear is that the Bengals will once again become the Bungles from the pre-Lewis era.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bengals sign DE Kerry Wynn
  • Bengals cut LB Vontaze Burfict
  • Bengals sign G John Miller
  • Bengals sign CB B.W. Webb

    Team Needs:
    1. Right Tackle: Cordy Glenn was a nice addition last offseason at left tackle, but the Bengals are desperate for a bookend. They’ll need to continue to bolster their offensive line to get back to playoff contention.

    2. Two Linebackers: There’s some concern that Vontaze Burfict’s career could be in jeopardy because of many concussions. If so, the Bengals will need two linebackers to join Nick Vigil at the position.

    3. Guard: Here’s another position on the offensive line that Cincinnati will need to address. Clint Boling is a solid blocker, but the Bengals will have to obtain another guard. Signed John Miller

    4. Tight End: Poor Tyler Eifert can’t stay healthy at all. He’s an impending free agent anyway, so the Bengals may spend an early draft pick on a tight end. Re-signed Tyler Eifert

    5. Quarterback: Andy Dalton doesn’t appear to be the answer, but it’ll be difficult to find a replacement for him. Cincinnati should obtain a young quarterback to potentially replace Dalton down the road.

    6. Cornerback: Cincinnati had a poor pass defense in 2018. The front office will have to obtain a new cornerback to help fix that. Re-signed Darqueze Dennard; signed B.W. Webb

    7. Wide Receiver: The Bengals will give John Ross one more year, but in truth, they need a third receiver to go along with A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. B.W. Webb, CB, Giants. Age: 29. — Signed with Bengals (3 years)
    2. John Miller, G, Bills. Age: 26. — Signed with Bengals (3 years, $16.5 million)
    3. Kerry Wynn, DE, Giants. Age: 28. — Signed with Bengals (1 year)

    Cincinnati Bengals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Bengals. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Bengals

      Darqueze Dennard has done a solid job as Cincinnati’s slot cornerback over the past couple of years, though he missed a few games in 2018 with a shoulder injury. Dennard hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing, but he’s a decent player.

    2. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Bengals (1 year)

      Tyler Eifert is extremely talented, so it’s such a shame that he can’t stay healthy at all. Eifert has played just 14 of 48 possible games over the past three years. He’d be rated much higher if it wasn’t for his poor durability.

    3. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Bengals. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year)

      Vontaze Burfict once would’ve been ranked as a four-star free agent, but injuries have sabotaged his career. He’s played in just 43 of 80 possible games over the past five seasons, and now there’s speculation that he may have to retire because of concussions.

    4. Bobby Hart, OT, Bengals. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Bengals (3 years, $21 million)
    5. Preston Brown, ILB, Bengals. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Bengals (3 years)
    6. Tyler Kroft, TE, Bengals. Age: 26. — Signed with Bills (3 years, $18.75 million)
    7. C.J. Uzomah, TE, Bengals. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Bengals (3 years, $18 million)
    8. Trey Hopkins, C, Bengals. Age: 27. — Tendered by Bengals (2nd round)
    9. Vincent Rey, OLB, Bengals. Age: 31.
    10. Jake Fisher, OT, Bengals. Age: 26. — Signed with Bills
    11. Christian Ringo (RFA), DT, Bengals. Age: 27.
    12. Kent Perkins (RFA), G, Bengals. Age: 24.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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