The Cincinnati Bengals roster showed how solid of a core it had during their Super Bowl LVI run. After an underrated draft and a strong initial free agency period, has the dust settled? As rosters continue to get jumbled, there are a handful of Bengals free agent targets that could help Cincinnati repeat as AFC champs.
As of the end of OTAs, Cincinnati has just shy of $15MM in cap space. With the Jessie Bates situation in the air and a handful of stars set to get their payday, the Bengals may just sit tight and use that cushion to sign their own. Or, they could do what they’ve been known to do, and allow it to roll over into 2023 to prepare for Joe Burrow’s potentially record-breaking deal.
Regardless, there are a few veterans who could provide Cincinnati with depth and be productive at the same time. If the Bengals were to do anything, it’s likely that they’d stop at just one of these potential targets.
Potential Bengals Free Agent Targets for 2022
Even though the Bengals have, arguably, the best wide receiver trio, the WR4 slot is a question. They currently employ four wide receivers who are more of special teamers than regular receivers: Stanley Morgan, Trent Taylor, Mike Thomas, and Trenton Irwin. They signed five players as UDFAs who could all develop into surprises but Cincinnati needs a guy for 2022.
Is Will Fuller the elite downfield threat that he was with the Houston Texans? No, not quite. However, Fuller is still a burner who could help take the top off of the defense. Imagine defenses having to line up with Fuller and Ja’Marr Chase on the same side. Imagine defenses having to defend trips with Fuller, Chase, and Tee Higgins.
Fuller is not what he once was but handing out a veteran minimum, one-year deal wouldn’t hurt. The Bengals don’t need Fuller to be a number-one, 1,000-yard, 75-target receiver. They would just need another threat that could take pressure off of Chase and Higgins. Chase is one of the best receivers in the game against man coverage. Force defenses to spread out and cover all four receivers. Not to mention Joe Mixon/Chris Evans coming out of the backfield or Hayden Hurst at tight end.
— Bengals Graphics (@BengalsGraphic5) June 23, 2022
What better way to show the NFL you want to get back to the Super Bowl than to sign a former Super Bowl champ? Ndamukong Suh, despite his early character concerns, has been a force for his entire 12-year career. There have been 193 regular-season games to play for Suh…he’s played in 191. That includes each of the last 164 games. Here’s a quick run-down of Suh’s accomplishments:
- Three First-Team All-Pro
- Two Second-Team All-Pro
- Five Pro Bowls
- 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year
- Super Bowl LV Champion
Sure, Cincinnati brought back B.J. Hill and drafted Zachary Carter, but defensive tackle could still be a need. Suh’s best football is behind him, just like Fuller, but lining him up beside Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader would be scary.
Now, things get sticky. Currently, the Bengals have five safeties under contract, not named Bates: two rookies, a practice squad guy, a journeyman, a kick-returner, and Vonn Bell. If Bates doesn’t play or is traded away, they may need a little help.
Landon Collins is a former second-round pick (33rd overall) of the New York Giants. In his time with NYG, Collins racked up three Pro Bowls, a First-Team All-Pro, and even some Defensive Player of the Year votes in 2016.
Bell is a very solid strong safety who can come downhill and ring some bells. Dax Hill looks like he can be the real deal at free safety. Tycen Anderson is a project. Who knows if Brandon Wilson makes the team. If Bates isn’t one of the 2022 Cincinnati Bengals, they may need help. He’s worked with Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo in New York, so there’s a connection there.
J.C. Tretter was a popular name on Cincinnati Twitter when released by in-state rival, Cleveland. If there is even an inkling of doubt that Jackson Carman or Cordell Volson couldn’t fill the left guard role, Tretter should get a call.
As of now, Ted Karras looks to be the Bengals starting center. If Cincinnati brings in Tretter, Karras would certainly bump out to left guard. In 2021, Tretter finished the year with an 83.7 pass-blocking grade via PFF and allowed just one sack. For a unit that allowed over 70, you can’t over-spend to fix the most glaring issue on a championship roster.
Cincinnati could roll into Week 1 with an offensive line of Jonah Williams, Ted Karras, J.C. Tretter, Alex Cappa, and La’el Collins. It would be a far cry from their infamous nine-sack game in the AFC Divisional round.
Finally, if there are no other Bengals free agent targets to be had, they could just bring back some familiar faces. At this point, Quinton Spain would not be expected to be a starter and Cincinnati will cement their support behind Carman/Volson.
Spain finished 2021 with a very solid 72.3 PFF grade, overall. Across the year, Spain was actually pretty good. However, recency bias is a helluva drug. He was the one who was Thanos-snapped out of existence on the final play of Super Bowl LVI which allowed Aaron Donald to get to Burrow in 0.001 seconds, ultimately resulting in a feeble pass attempt and blue and yellow confetti falling from the sky.
According to PFF, Spain was on the hook for five sacks in 2021. He’s getting up there in age and it would be time to allow the younger crowd to show what they can do. However, if Spain wants to chase a ring, Cincinnati may be the place…even if it is in a depth role. As seen last year, the Bengals cannot have too much depth on the offensive line.