The Cincinnati Bengals magical 2021-22 season fell just short, ending with a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI. Though the Joe Burrow-led offense looks like it'll be a force for years to come, there are still plenty of ways Cincy can upgrade this offseason. The O-Line stands out as an obvious position of need.
Thankfully, the Bengals can throw money at their problems this offseason. Cincy has about $48 million in available cap space, giving them the fourth-most space in the league, per Spotrac. And they will have no trouble opening up more space if need be. Cutting Trae Waynes would net this team another $10.8 million, for example.
Bengals Free Agency Predictions 2022
With all that in mind, here are three free agents the Bengals should target to make another Super Bowl run in 2023.
3. Laken Tomlinson, OG, San Francisco 49ers
Cincinnati needs to be careful. Having all this cap space coming off a Super Bowl loss feels like a recipe for making some ill-advised signings. The Bengals don't need to hit home runs all offseason; they need lots of singles and doubles. Splashy signings also aren't exactly typical of Mike Brown's Bengals, so it's a lot easier to see them following the Bills team-building blueprint rather than modeling themselves after the Rams or Bucs. Laken Tomlinson would be the perfect signing for a more conservative offseason. He'd still provide a massive upgrade on the interior, but he's not going to command a top-of-market deal like Brandon Scherff, who plenty of Bengals fans are clamoring for. Tomlinson also doesn't have the injury history Scherff does, having only missed one game since entering the league in 2015. Scherff, meanwhile, has missed at least two games in five straight seasons and has missed at least five games in three of his last four campaigns. A two- or three-year deal at the right price would be a huge get.
2. Steven Nelson, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
Right tackle was the other glaring weakness on this offensive line, but I'm not sure they need to do much there in free agency. Riley Reiff was perfectly serviceable when he was healthy in 2021, and he hasn't had many serious injury issues in the past. Re-signing the 33-year-old to a one-year deal while spending a first- or second round pick on a right tackle is more than enough. Instead, we'll give Cincy some help at cornerback. Steven Nelson is a great starter and he's a perfect fit when you consider how the Bengals built their secondary. Cincinnati took plenty of swings at cornerback last offseason, landing solid starters like Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton. They also took some low-risk gambles on reclamation projects like Eli Apple and Vernon Hargreaves, as Duke Tobin chose to have a bevy of bodies at CB rather than shell out huge, longterm money to retain William Jackson III. Nelson isn't a No. 1 corner, but he's a rock-solid No. 2 and fits the Bengals' M.O. to a tee.
1. James Daniels, OG, Chicago Bears
Putting two guards on this list may seem like overkill, but you can't overstate how crucial it is for the Bengals to fix their O-Line. Signing a veteran guard like Tomlinson and a younger one like James Daniels could solidify this position for the next few seasons. The fifth-year pro isn't a top-three talent like a Scherff or Quenton Nelson, but that's not what the Bengals need. They just need to not be atrocious on the interior. Last season, Hakeem Adeniji graded out as the second-worst player among 82 qualified guards, per PFF. Meanwhile, Daniels graded out as a top-20 guard in back-to-back healthy seasons. This just feels like a perfect fit. Daniels would excel in the zone-heavy scheme, he's played a full season in three of his four NFL campaigns and he's still just 25, making him both a longterm and win-now addition. That's the exact type of player Cincinnati should be targeting.
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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.