American Football

ESPN has Bengals among ‘teetering contenders’

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Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Bengals seem to be staring down an important offseason.

The Cincinnati Bengals had a rough 2023 season. It was mostly due to the fact quarterback Joe Burrow was battling through a calf injury most of his season before ending his season with a wrist injury.

Now that the offseason is here. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler broke up every team into tiers describing where they currently sit prior to any moves being made. The Bengals are sitting in the “teetering contender” category.

Average age of roster: 26.5

Salary cap space: $47.9 million

Total 2024 draft picks (projected): 9

The Bengals’ roster is well-stocked but needs reinforcements, particularly on defense. Expect Cincinnati to attempt to add speed and explosion to its front seven, particularly on the interior defensive line, via free agency and the draft. Many around the league believe Cincinnati will franchise-tag wide receiver Tee Higgins and let veteran slot receiver Tyler Boyd walk. Running back Joe Mixon ($5.8 million cap savings) and defensive tackle BJ Hill ($7.5 million) are among potential cap casualties, though Mixon posted 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns.

Cincinnati’s first big decision will be what to do with Higgins, which many expect them to tag the wide receiver. The move makes sense since he is still one of the best receivers in the NFL and an incredibly unfair player to pair with Ja’Marr Chase. There is a small chance they could trade him after tagging him, but it would be surprising to not see him in stripes next season.

The next big issue is filling in Jonah Williams at right tackle, and then it is improving that interior pass rush, which makes it hard to believe that the Bengals would cut Hill. Especially as D.J. Reader’s future with the team is up in the air.

The only other team in this category is the Philadelphia Eagles, who started off the season incredibly hot before crumbling at the end of the season and losing in the Wild Card round.

The Baltimore Ravens had the privilege of being listed in the “still major contenders” section despite completely crumbling to the Kansas City Chiefs at home in the Conference Championship. The Cleveland Browns are perpetually in the “on the right track” tier, and the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves “stuck in quarterback purgatory.”

The Bengals have a chance to really make some noise if Burrow can stay healthy with some of these weapons surrounding him. We will have to see how they attack right tackle as well as interior pass rushers, but if they are able to make suitable moves, then it is hard to see them not back to making deep postseason runs.

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