NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Cincinnati Bengals

at M&T Bank Stadium on November 10, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on March 2, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

The Bengals have big decisions to make along the offensive line, as their top two linemen are free agents this offseason. They also need to improve the pass rush on defense, as well as upgrade the talent at receiver, considering the likely departure of one-year-rental Brandon LaFell.

Salary cap room

$41,873,339 (11th in NFL; as of 3/6/2017)

Biggest needs

  • Defensive lineman
  • Wide receiver
  • Guard
  • Cornerback

Notable free agents

  • Andrew Whitworth, T, 91.3 overall grade in 2016
  • Kevin Zeitler, G, 87.1
  • Brandon LaFell, WR, 75.7
  • Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, 74.7
  • Domato Peko, DI, 42.6

Must re-sign

Kevin Zeitler, G, 87.1 overall grade in 2016

Zeitler’s 87.1 overall grade ranked seventh among all guards in 2016, and has ranked least as high in 2014 and 2015. While there will be other (cheaper) options available in free agency, losing a perennial top-10 guard who is just 26 years old would do significant damage to the offense.

Dream splash

Calais Campbell, Edge, Arizona Cardinals, 90.4

Campbell has the length the Bengals covet at defensive end, and would be a massive upgrade over current starter Michael Johnson. Johnson’s pass-rush grade has been under 45.0 for three straight seasons, while Campbell posted a 90.4 overall grade in 2016 thanks to 56 QB pressures and 34 total stops. Among all 3-4 defensive ends, Campbell finished seventh in run-stop percentage and second in pass-rush productivity last season.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Prince Amukamara, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 76.6

The Bengals have a decision to make with Adam Jones, who has gotten into more off-field trouble this winter and would be a cap savings of $6.83 million to the Bengals if cut. If they do release Jones, Amukamara would be a steady, economical replacement.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins, 77.0

They’ll likely need to endure a bidding war for him, but Jackson is an ideal WR target. QB Andy Dalton has cracked the top 10 in deep accuracy two years in a row, and Jackson’s game-breaking speed would complement A.J. Green perfectly. Jackson posted catches of at least 25 yards in 10 of 16 games in 2016.

Brandon Williams, DI, Baltimore Ravens, 75.9

Williams has never offered much as a pass-rusher, but has been an excellent run defender for the Ravens. His ability to absorb blocks would instantly upgrade a run defense that finished 23rd in raw grading last season. The fact they’d be signing a quality player off the roster of a divisional opponent would be an added bonus to signing Williams.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

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