The NFL scouting combine is set for next week, and teams will be looking to secure positions. The season just came to an end, but it’s already time to start preparations for 2016. The Cincinnati Bengals could potentially lose a ton of players, if the right moves aren’t made. Cold hard cash is usually the motivation for most players that walk. Some do it to escape a particular franchise.
The Bengals have had several players return after testing the free agent waters. Hopefully, this year Bengals brass can stop them before they decide to move on. There are some potentially devastating exits that could take place. To ensure success with no regression, the Bengals need to make a few offseason moves.
Address The Needs At Linebacker
The Bengals have already established that Vontaze Burfict is the beast of burden. His edgy playing style helped the defense secure a top-tier ranking. Per ESPN stats, the Bengals were able to end their campaign as the No. 2 scoring defense. The unit’s overall rank was N0. 11.
That ranking was due to Burfict’s aggressive play and leadership. But that same passion led the league to hit him with a three-game suspension to start the year. In order to offset that handicap, the Bengals need to make linebacker Vincent Rey a happy man.
Before Burfict came off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) last season, Rey started the first six games at WILL. In five of them, he either led the team or was second in tackles. Highlighted by 13 tackles against Seattle and 15 the next week against the Bills, Rey helped the Bengals to a 6-0 start.
The Bengals need more speed at linebacker, to complement Burfict. With their star linebacker being absent for three games, the Bengals would be wise to take a close look at the young talent that’s already available.
Bring Back At Least One Burner
It’s hard to believe that both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are going to be free agents. With Calvin Jones retiring, the Detroit Lions will probably make a sweet offer for either player. There’s also the possibility of Hue Jackson trying to make a run for them.
What happens if Jones and Sanu decide to leave? A.J. Green will still be Andy Dalton’s top receiver. Who will be able to pull the defenders away from Green? Tyler Eifert is a capable downfield threat, but his blocking skills are also needed on the line. If both speedsters walk, there’s no definite N0. 2 wide out.
Mario Alford is a possible fix, but he hasn’t proven that he can fill such big shoes. Clearly, the solution would have to be the draft, if neither receiver comes back into the fold.
Make Sure The Secondary Is Sound
Bengals fans may be upset with Adam Jones after the Wild Card game. But he contributed one of his best seasons in Orange and Black. Before suffering a foot injury, Jones was defending top receivers, like a cornerback in his prime. Most NFL players tend to see their level of play decline, as they move towards their 30s. Jones has gotten better. He needs to come back.
Jones may be outspoken and edgy, but he’s one of the best in the league. Bengals fans saw his tremendous year rewarded with his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Jones was arguably the Bengals best corner and was assigned opponents best receivers. The result was usually a lock down performance.
The Bengals need to sign George Iloka. He was drafted with the intent to become a great safety. He’s gone beyond that and turned into an elite defensive player. Losing his knowledge of the system would be devastating. If the Bengals don’t hit him with a franchise tag, there will definitely be teams lined up to toss the cash. Signing either Jones or Iloka would be a plus. Bringing both back would be incredible.
Reggie Nelson rewarded the Bengals with a superstar season. He’s been a beast and also made it to his first Pro Bowl. But at 32-years-old, the Bengals may not be willing to give him another huge contract.
[Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images]