2020 NFL Offseason: Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals (Last Year: 2-14)

2020 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Mike Thomas, G Xavier Su’a-Filo, DT D.J. Reader, DT Mike Daniels, LB Josh Bynes, CB Trae Waynes, CB Leshaun Sims, S Vonn Bell.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Joe Burrow, WR Tee Higgins, LB Logan Wilson, LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, DE Khaleed Kareem. Bengals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Andy Dalton, TE Tyler Eifert, OT Cordy Glenn, DT Andrew Billings, LB Nick Vigil, CB Darqueze Dennard, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S Clayton Fejedelem.

2020 Cincinnati Bengals Offense:
The Bengals spent the entire decade mired with mediocre or worse quarterbacking. Andy Dalton held the job for a long time, and he even reached the playoffs on several occasions, but he could never do anything once he got there. Dalton was always just an average talent, and he regressed toward the end of his tenure in Cincinnati once he no longer had the luxury of throwing to A.J. Green.

Cincinnati can finally say goodbye to medicority, as it spent the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Joe Burrow. The Heisman winner enjoyed a magical season at LSU, leading the team to a dominant national championship victory. He was deadly accurate and showed great mobility. Burrow doesn’t have elite arm strength, but his upside is a more-athletic Drew Brees. Unlike Dalton, he’s capable of leading the Bengals to a Super Bowl.

Top-overall picks typically don’t have great supporting casts to work with because they’re drafted to poor teams, but that’s not the case in this instance. Green missed all of 2019, but he’ll be back to serve as Burrow’s No. 1 weapon. It’s fair to wonder if Green will decline because of his age (32 in July). However, even at 80 percent, he’ll provide a boost over what Cincinnati had at receiver last year. Green will play along with emerging Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate, speedster John Ross and second-round rookie Tee Higgins in what could be an impressive group.

The Bengals have a potent ground attack as well. Joe Mixon is one of the more talented running backs in the NFL. The blocking hasn’t always been there for him because teams haven’t had to respect the pass, but that’s no longer the case. Mixon will undoubtedly see fewer men in the box with Burrow under center. He’ll also continue to evolve as a receiver; his ability in that regard has strengthened in recent years.

Speaking of Mixon’s blocking, it was very poor in the first half of the year. That improved greatly when Cordy Glenn returned from his lengthy concussion. Glenn is no longer with the team, but the Bengals will be able to replace him with 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams, who missed his entire rookie campaign with a shoulder injury. Williams will start on the blind side, playing bookend to Bobby Hart, who struggled last year.

It’s not pretty in the interior of the offensive line. The Bengals never quite replaced the retired Clint Boling, as their guards, Xavier Su’a-Filo and Billy Price, are pedestrian. Price at least has some potential as a former first-round pick, but he hasn’t lived up to it yet. Meanwhile, center Trey Hopkins isn’t much better. It’s quite disappointing that the Bengals didn’t find at least two upgrades for the offensive line this offseason.

2020 Cincinnati Bengals Defense:
It’s not very common to see the Bengals spend lots of money in free agency. Owner Mike Brown has often been stingy when it comes to adding talent to his roster, but that completely changed this offseason.

D.J. Reader was one of the players Cincinnati gave lots of money to this offseason, as it signed him to a 4-year, $53 million contract. Reader will be a huge presence in the interior of Cincinnati’s defensive front, as he’ll serve as a massive run plugger. He’s one of the primary reasons the Texans had been so terrific against the rush in recent years, and now he’ll bring that same force to the Bengals’ front. He’ll start next to Geno Atkins, who continued to perform on a high level last year.

The rest of Cincinnati’s defensive line is comprised of edge rushers Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson. Dunlap notched nine sacks last year, which is an impressive number considering that the Bengals seldom had leads. Lawson, meanwhile, never seemed 100 percent because he was in and out of the lineup with injuries, missing four games. He should be better in 2020.

Another player Cincinnati gave lots of money to was cornerback Trae Waynes, who received a 3-year, $42 million contract. Waynes isn’t a great cornerback, but he’s a solid player who will certainly be an upgrade over what the Bengals had at the position last season. Fellow newcomer Mackensie Alexander will also be an upgrade at corner, as he’ll be stationed in the slot. William Jackson, meanwhile, will return for another year, as he’ll look to bounce back from an injury-ridden 2019 campaign.

The Bengals brought in Vonn Bell, too. Bell did a decent job in New Orleans’ secondary, prompting Cincinnati to sign him to a 3-year, $18 million deal. Bell isn’t very good in coverage, but he’s terrific in run support. He’s also just 25, so he could improve his game. He’ll start next to Jessie Bates, who had a strong rookie season in 2018, but declined last year.

While linebacker wasn’t really addressed in free agency, the Bengals used third- and fourth-round picks on the position, selecting Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither. Cincinnati did this to bolster a horrendous linebacking corps, so the team is hoping that these new players, along with 2019 third-rounder Germaine Pratt, will help them have a chance of slowing down Lamar Jackson.

2020 Cincinnati Bengals Schedule and Intangibles:
Cincinnati has developed a strong home-field advantage recently, going 31-17-1 over the past six seasons, excluding 2019, which was a lost year. 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, bounce back from a mediocre 2018 season. He hit 27-of-31 attempts in 2019, and he missed just one extra point.

Punter Kevin Huber ranked 20th in net yardage in 2018, but improved to 10th last season. He did a good job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

Cincinnati’s special teams were dead even on punt returns, and the team outgained the opposition by a wide margin on kickoffs.

The Bengals will be underdogs in most games this year, but they’ll have an opportunity to beat the likes of the Chargers (home), Browns, Redskins and Dolphins, among others.

2020 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.

2020 Cincinnati Bengals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2020 Cincinnati Bengals Analysis: The Bengals are no longer the worst team in the NFL. Though Joe Burrow has no NFL experience, he’ll be a major upgrade over Andy Dalton. The return of A.J. Green and Jonah Williams will help him, while the defense has obtained an injection of talent. Unfortunately for the Bengals, they still have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, so while they’ll be more competitive this year, accumulating wins will prove to be difficult.

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

2019 Projection: 4-12. 2019 Actual Result: 2-14.
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: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Bengals will obtain their new franchise quarterback with the first-overall pick. What they do after that is almost as imperative. They must protect Joe Burrow as well as possible, and that would entail selecting two offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. Cincinnati also must address its dreadful pass defense in Rounds 3-5.

2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Bengals obviously improved their roster with Joe Burrow, but I wasn’t a fan of their draft overall. I was disappointed that they didn’t address their offensive line until the sixth round. That was a huge mistake because protecting Burrow will be essential. Sure, they get Jonah Williams back from injury, but they also lost Cordy Glenn this offseason. That’s a lateral move, at best, so Burrow is likely to struggle with protection as a rookie. It would be a shame if Burrow got hurt because Cincinnati couldn’t figure out that it had to shield its rookie quarterback.

Rather than reaching on Tee Higgins, who can’t separate, the Bengals should’ve selected a pass protector at No. 33. The other picks were fine – the linebackers were nice choices, and they will help the Bengals not be completely embarrassed by Lamar Jackson for a change – but I can’t help but be underwhelmed by what the Bengals accomplished outside of obtaining their franchise quarterback, who just fell into their laps because the Dolphins won some meaningless games late in the year.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

1. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU – A Grade
The Bengals were undoubtedly tempted by trade offers, as the Dolphins were said to be in love with Joe Burrow. However, Cincinnati smartly held on to the No. 1 pick and selected Burrow. The LSU product is going to change the fortunes of this franchise, as the Bengals have been stricken with mediocre or worse quarterbacking ever since Carson Palmer left the team. Burrow, who has great accuracy, mobility and leadership, is a major upgrade over Andy Dalton, so it would’ve been a huge mistake to trade out of this pick.

33. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson – D Grade
The Bengals were going to select Zack Baun unless an “unexpected player” fell to them. I suppose that means Tee Higgins was unexpected. He should have been expected, however, as Higgins, despite what he did in college, doesn’t project well for the NFL. He reminds me of N’Keal Harry in terms of his inability to separate from coverage. Baun would’ve been a better pick, as Higgins should’ve been chosen in the third round.

65. Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming – B Grade
The Bengals desperately needed linebacker help, given that they’ll need to defend Lamar Jackson for the next dozen years or so. Wilson is a solid pick here, though Cincinnati could have done better with Zack Baun, whom the team seemed to love a week ago. I’m not sure what changed, but Baun’s free fall is bizarre.

107. Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State – B+ Grade
Another linebacker is a logical route for the Bengals to take. They need to do everything in their power to slow down Lamar Jackson, so upgrading their poor linebacking corps was essential. Akeem Davis-Gather was someone who had third-round discussion, so this is a nice bargain to kick off Round 4.

147. Khaleed Kareem, DE, Notre Dame – B Grade
This is a solid pick by the Bengals to open Round 5. They needed another edge rusher, and they’re getting a player who was productive and has nice upside.

180. Hakeem Adeniji, G, Kansas – B+ Grade
Hakeem Adeniji will have to move to guard in the NFL, but that’s fine because the Bengals need help at that spot. Adeniji makes sense in this range, so I like this pick because Cincinnati had to improve its offensive line.

215. Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue – B+ Grade
Markus Bailey would’ve been chosen earlier than this if he didn’t miss the 2019 season with a knee injury. The Bengals could be getting a nice bargain here because of that, but the knee issues could linger.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
When the Bengals fired Marvin Lewis, it was very obvious that they would revert to their “Bungles” status from the late 90s and early 2000s. That’s exactly what happened, as the Bengals finished with the worst record in the NFL. Luckily, they’ll be in position to land LSU’s Joe Burrow.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bengals cut QB Andy Dalton
  • Bengals cut CB Dre Kirkpatrick
  • Bengals sign S Vonn Bell
  • Bengals sign CB LeShaun Sims
  • Bengals sign WR Mike Thomas
  • Bengals sign LB Josh Bynes
  • Bengals sign G Xavier Su’a-Filo
  • Bengals sign CB Trae Waynes
  • Bengals sign DT D.J. Reader

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: This is the top need, but it’s one the Bengals can address easily by drafting Joe Burrow No. 1 overall.

    2. Two Guards: The Bengals really need to protect Burrow, so they’ll have to add some talent to the interior of their offensive front. They have a pair of holes at guard, thanks to Clint Boling’s retirement, so they’ll need to fill both areas this offseason.

    3. Two Linebackers: Moving to the defense, the Bengals had the worst healthy linebacking corps in the NFL last year. Multiple upgrades are needed at the position. Signed Josh Bynes

    4. Center: Trey Hopkins was re-signed, but he needs to be upgraded.

    5. Safety: The Bengals need to continue to bolster the middle of their defense, as they had some horrid safety play outside of Jessie Bates, who wasn’t even that good this past season. Signed Vonn Bell

    6. Cornerback: Cincinnati’s pass defense was equally dreadful compared to its horrible run defense. Some help at cornerback is desperately needed. Signed Trae Waynes

    7. Wide Receiver: A.J. Green will likely leave via free agency, so Cincinnati will need to find a new top receiver to pair with Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate. Franchised A.J. Green; signed Mike Thomas

    8. Tight End: Tyler Eifert is an impending free agent, so this could be the time that Cincinnati finally gives up on him.

    9. Offensive Tackle: Cordy Glenn missed most of 2019, while Jonah Williams was sidelined for all of it. The two will make a nice pair in 2020, but the Bengals need better depth if disaster strikes again.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. D.J. Reader, NT, Texans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bengals (4 years, $53 million)

      D.J. Reader is one of the top nose tackles in the NFL. He’s a monster when it comes to stuffing the run, and he’s also pretty decent at applying pressure on the quarterback. He won’t be 27 until the 2021 offseason, so the sky is the limit for him.

    2. Mike Daniels, DE/DT, Lions. Age: 31.
      Signed with Bengals

      Mike Daniels was once one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL, but he had an injury-ravaged 2019 campaign after the Packers released him last offseason. He turns 31 this offseason and should continue to decline.

    3. Trae Waynes, CB, Vikings. Age: 28.
      Signed with Bengals

      Trae Waynes has never lived up to his first-round billing, but he’s been a solid, but unspectacular cornerback over the years. Time is running out for him to become a great starter.

    4. Vonn Bell, S, Saints. Age: 25.
      Signed with Bengals (3 years)

      Vonn Bell is a stout in-the-box safety who thrives against the run, but he can be beaten in coverage rather easily.

    5. Josh Bynes, LB, Ravens. Age: 31.
      Signed with Bengals

      Josh Bynes is a solid, two-down linebacker who specializes in run support.

    6. Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, Cowboys. Age: 29. — Signed with Bengals (3 years, $10 million)
    7. Leshaun Sims, CB, Titans. Age: 26. — Signed with Bengals
    8. Mike Thomas, WR, Rams. Age: 26. — Signed with Bengals

    Cincinnati Bengals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals. Age: 32.
      Franchised by Bengals

      A.J. Green used to be one of the best receivers in the NFL, but those days are long gone. Green can no longer stay healthy – he’s played just one full season since 2015 – and he turns 32 in July, so even if he manages to see the field, it’s unlikely we’ll see him dominate like he used to.

    2. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Bengals. Age: 28.
      Darqueze Dennard played very well as Cincinnati’s slot cornerback in 2019. However, Dennard has played just one full season in his career, so he’d be ranked higher if he weren’t such an injury risk.

    3. Cordy Glenn, OT, Bengals. Age: 30.
      Cordy Glenn missed the first 10 games of the 2019 season because of a concussion. This was not surprising, as Glenn has been absent in 23 of 48 possible contests in the previous three years. Glenn, however, is a talented blocker, which was apparent by Joe Mixon’s improved running once Glenn returned to the lineup. Glenn is a risky signing for sure, but he still possesses upside.

    4. Andrew Billings, DT, Bengals. Age: 25.
      Signed with Browns (1 year, $3 million)

      Andrew Billings has been a stout nose tackle for the Bengals over the past couple of years. He’s only 25, so he still has plenty of room for growth.

    5. Nick Vigil, ILB, Bengals. Age: 27.
      Signed with Chargers (1 year)

      Nick Vigil is a solid cover linebacker, but he gets bulldozed in run support. He should just be playing in sub packages, but he’s pretty good at what he does best.

    6. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Bengals. Age: 30.
      Dre Kirkpatrick had some bright moments in Cincinnati, but not so much recently. Now 30, Kirkpatrick appears to be on a swift decline. He could have one more solid season remaining in the tank, but he’s shown no signs of that.

    7. Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Andy Dalton was once capable of leading a talented team to the playoffs. He might still be able to do so, but he turns 33 in October. At the very worst, Dalton will be a great backup who can fill in well for several games in the event of an injury to the starter.

    8. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals. Age: 29. — Signed with Jaguars (2 years)
    9. Josh Tupou (RFA), DT, Bengals. Age: 26.
    10. Clayton Fejedelem, S, Bengals. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins (3 years)
    11. B.W. Webb, CB, Bengals. Age: 30.
    12. John Miller, G, Bengals. Age: 27. — Signed with Panthers (1 year)
    13. Hardy Nickerson (RFA), ILB, Bengals. Age: 26.
    14. Torry McTyer (RFA), CB, Bengals. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Bengals
    15. Kerry Wynn, DE, Bengals. Age: 29.

    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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