Targets, plans & options this offseason
The Cincinnati Bengals’ free agency in 2023 figures to be interesting to watch. On top of going to the AFC Championship Game in back-to-back seasons, the Bengals rank near the top of the NFL in salary cap space this offseason.
Needless to say, it’ll be fascinating to see what players are the Bengals’ free agency targets and how the Bengals’ offseason plans unfold.
Bengals free agency 2023
The only caveat is that some of the best players available in free agency this offseason are Cincinnati’s own players. That could potentially throw a wrench in the Bengals’ free agency for 2023. Nevertheless, the team is in an enviable position in 2023, so let’s take a closer look at the Bengals’ offseason plans, specifically the Bengals’ free agency 2023 targets.
Cornerback seems to be Cincinnati’s biggest offseason need, especially with Eli Apple and Tre Flowers becoming free agents. If the Bengals want to fill that hole and upgrade their talent at that position, they need to go after James Bradberry, who is arguably the top corner available this year.
Bradberry played a key role in helping the Eagles get to the Super Bowl and was a Second-Team All-Pro in 2022. His controversial hold in the Super Bowl aside, Bradberry offers the best chance for any team to upgrade at corner this offseason, so the Bengals might be wise to use some of their cap space to sign him.
Despite a solid defense in 2022, nobody on the Bengals had more than 8.5 sacks. In fact, only two players reached four sacks on the season.
Needless to say, an edge-rusher is high on Cincinnati’s list of needs with Yannick Ngakoue being the ideal fit. He’s had a minimum of eight sacks every year of his career and has totaled 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons. At age 28, Ngakoue is far from past his prime and is a safe bet to improve Cincinnati’s pass rush and give their defense another weapon.
Orlando Brown Jr.
If the Bengals are going to get past the Chiefs next season, signing one of Kansas City’s top free agents could be one way to do it. That is why Orlando Brown Jr. could be an obvious target for the Bengals this offseason, even though it’ll take a substantial amount of money to make it happen.
After the Bengals allowed 44 sacks in 16 games this past season, they need to continue to improve their offensive line. Plus, La’el Collins is considered a likely cap casualty for the Bengals, opening the door for the Bengals to make an offensive tackle one of their top priorities in free agency.
Both Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, Cincinnati’s starting safeties this season, are set to hit free agency this offseason. The Bengals used a first-round pick last season on Dax Hill, who looks poised to replace Bates, but retaining a veteran safety like Bell might be a wise move given the state of the Cincinnati secondary.
Bell may not be a bonafide star, but he’s been a steady part of the Cincinnati defense over the last three years and would be a far more cost-effective player to retain than Bates.
As mentioned, the Bengals will be looking for pass-rushers this offseason. If they’re willing to take a little bit of a chance on someone, Jadeveon Clowney could be a good option.
The former top overall pick is coming off a bad year in Cleveland, although he’s only 30 and should have something left in the tank. If nothing else, he should feel like he has something to prove and was a Pro-Bowler as recently as 2018.
At this stage in his career, Clowney won’t demand a lot of money for a one-year deal, which is why the Bengals might consider using a little bit of their cap space on a part-time player with some upside at a position of need.
Much like Clowney, Justin Houston is a veteran who the Bengals could bring in for a modest amount of money this offseason to give them another pass-rusher.
Houston wouldn’t need to start but rather provide depth and play part-time. Much like Clowney, they’d also be signing him away from a division rival, which is an added benefit.
More importantly, Houston tallied 9.5 sacks as a part-time player with the Ravens last season, so he can still get after the quarterback and could potentially make a meaningful difference on the Cincinnati defense.
The running back position will be curious to watch this offseason. Joe Mixon has been mentioned as a candidate to be cut while Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams are both free agents, leaving the backfield empty if Mixon is indeed cut.
That makes re-signing Perine an intriguing possibility for the Bengals. He’s proven to be a steady backup and a useful part of the passing game. Whether they keep Mixon or use draft capital to find a new running back, bringing back Perine to serve as the backup running back could be an overlooked but important move by Cincinnati this offseason.
There’s nothing wrong with the production the Bengals received from Hayden Hurst this past season. But it’d also be fair to say that the Bengals can do better.
With Hurst set to become a free agent, Cincinnati should be encouraged to explore the other free-agent tight ends available. Dalton Schultz is arguably the best of the bunch and a safer bet than Hurst after what he’s done in Dallas over the last three seasons.
Schultz is both younger and a more proven player than Hurst, so if the Bengals want to use their cap space to shop at the top of the tight end market, Schultz should be the target.
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