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Cincinnati Bengals February Scouting Report
Mark Huber

One website says the Bengals are no longer in building mode but rather sustaining mode is a better term.
Given the big contracts due QB Joe Burrow and soon WR Tee Higgins that aforementioned statement is correct.

How does this team pay big money to Burrow then manage to keep enough competitive players around him to contend for another Super Bowl?

The $64,000 question to be sure.

Jessie Bates is at the top of the free agent list for the Bengals but fellow secondary members Vonn Bell and Eli Apple are right behind. Also, Trey Flowers is on the list, too. All are unrestriected free agents.

How the Bengals handle all these guys will depend on the money they seek. All could come back at the right price. None may be back. The team kinda hinted at losing some folks by the draft last season when they took Cameron Taylor-Britt and Dax Hill. The cupboard wouldn't be bare but it would take a hit if all 4 free agents left. Germaine Pratt is due a big payday at linebacker and would definitely hurt the defense if he left. His loss might be the single biggest among free agents. He is a consistent performer. Bates is good but up and down.

TE Hayden Hurst is a free agent who might look to return on a team friendly deal. Not sure how much interest he'd garner in free agency but if the Bengals draft a tight end maybe Hurst stays to mentor. Mitchell Wilcox, the immediate backup, also is a free agent.

Talk has been TE Mike Gesicki would be a good addition for this offense but I'm thinking money is going to keep that from happening. Now, Gesicki could say I want to showcase my talent in a great offense and Cincinnati would fit the bill, so a one year deal with a good price could benefit all parties involved. His talent was not utilized properly in Miami.

There are numerous other free agents, mostly depth pieces and none that fill a big spot fantasy-wise. Maybe a RB Samaje Perine but he might want a little more than this team will have given their need to fit other big deals in the budget.

With a late first round pick, this team can take best player available and be just fine. With the exception of quarterback, it could be any position honestly. Tight end wouldn't surprise me a bit and neither would running back but neither priorities. I mean if you think Michael Mayer is the best tight end out there, you have to ask how would benefit an offense that is wide receiver oriented? Is it that way because they haven't had a great TE? At RB, RB Joe Mixon was just a guy last year, in my book. Oh, he had his moments but looked a little slower than usual in most cases, so if someone they really like slips then maybe they go that route.

Wide receiver? Not a surprise for me. Recent talk has been the team might let Tyler Boyd go to save money but he's been a good guy and though his numbers were down last year he's someone that can be a No. 2 guy in a given game. If they don't think Higgins will return, Boyd most certainly comes back to help the transition to a new wideout that will have to have some talent to keep teams from focusing all attention on WR Ja'Marr Chase.

Any offensive lineman would be OK to draft, given the injuries that hit late in the year and forced the team to go with backups down the stretch.

With the return of the coaching staff, most importantly DC Lou Aranumo, this team is poised to stay at the top of a very tough AFC. I don't see the Bengals going out and inking any big money free agents but this is a team now that could add guys on team friendly one-year deals because they have a chance to make a Super Bowl run.



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