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Cincinnati Bengals March Scouting Report
Mark Huber

For the Cincinnati Bengals, the March free agency period didn't really feature the comings and goings of fantasy relevant players.

But make no mistake what the Bengals did in free agency has been a massive improvement for the fantasy players on this football.

With quarterback Joe Burrow sacked 71 times last season, a scary number even if it does include the team's meteoric run to the Super Bowl, the team quickly and decisively addressed the offensive line.

The additions of La'el Collins, Alex Cappa and Ted Karras give Cincinnati 3 new starters to protect Burrow and pave the way for the running game featuring Joe Mixon. With Karas slated to be the center, this trio could be right next to each other, leaving guard and tackle on the other side. Jonah Williams struggled at tackle last season but the No. 1 pick is the leading candidate there. However with a draft pick at tackle who could start, Williams might slide in to the guard slot, where I think he has better long-term potential. Now his struggle might have been the result of the other four players last season.

Either way, this is going to be a much better line for Burrow to throw behind and when he had time he was a dominant force.

The losses thus far are tackle Fred Johnson, center Trey Hopkins, corner Darius Phillips and tight end CJ Uzomah.

Some will fret over Uzomah. From a statistical standpoint, he's not a loss. His presence in the lockerroom will certainly be felt and the fans adored him. But at 3y, $21m, it was the right move.

That move was lessened with the signing of Hayden Hurst who is on board for one season. He was behind rookie legend Kyle Pitts in Atlanta last season and didn't have the best of numbers. However he had a 56-571-6 line in 2020 as the main tight end target.

The resigned players include WRs Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan Jr., WR/Punt Returner Trent Taylor, safeties Michael Thomas and Jessie Bates III, defensive tackles BJ Hill and Josh Tupou, cornerbacks Eli Apple and Jalen Davis, long snapper Clark Harris and backup QB Brandon Allen.

None of the wideouts move the needle much from fantasy purposes but all are good at special teams, so if your league plays D/ST then this is a team to consider. That said, the schedule is not favorable for any AFC defense/special teams unit. I go with an NFC team that has a much weaker schedule.

The main defenders coming back at Hill, Bates and Apple. All three played well in the post-season. Hill got a 3 year deal while Apple is signed up for one. Bates was signed under the franchise tag, and hope is he will ink a long-term deal. I'm OK with that for the right price but, as I've said before, he was just OK in the regular season in 2021 then took off with a dominant post-season performance. I'd like to see more consistency before I'd poney-up top safety money.

Going forward, there has been talk of Cincinnati looking at Stephon Gilmore for a defensive secondary upgrade. Again, if the money is right, I'd do it. Maybe even a slight overpay to be honest but not crazy money. Gilmore and Chidobe Uwuzie as the starters with Apple, Mike Hilton next in line would be more than capable set of corners.

Beyond Gilmore, the Bengals have not been linked to any outiside free agents. My guess would be a signing or two is still to come, modest acquisitions who might project as quality backups.

Larry Ogunjobi, who was a key factor on the defensive front, agreed to a deal with Chicago but failed the physical and is back to being a free agent. Some have said he should return to Cincinnati, have another big season and go back on the market.

What free agency has done aside from fix the most pressing need is give the team flexibility on draft day. Would it be nice to take a corner at 31? Yes. Or an offensive tackle like Zion Johnson? Yep. How about one of those massive Georgia defensive studs? Sure.

But they can go with best player available to help whatever area needs helping. That's the best thing to do, not forcing the issue and reaching for a player that fills a need but isn't as good as another player who is better but not a need.


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