2016 Cincinnati Bengals Offseason Positional Needs
Cincinnati Bengals Team Needs
The Cincinnati Bengals had a solid 2015, going 12-4 and finishing third in the AFC, but they lost in the first round of the postseason. They made the playoffs, but they lost in the Wild Card Round for the fifth straight season. They have all the pieces to have a successful year, but they are looking for that one last player to set their team over the edge. One or two key additions this offseason could propel the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati had the 15th best offense and 11th best defense in 2015, so they do not have any major weaknesses. The Bengals had a great roster last season, but they may be losing some role players due to free agency. The AFC North is a tough division, and the Bengals will need to capitalize on the draft if they want to retain their divisional title in 2016.
Cincinnati’s two starting safeties from 2015 are set to hit free agency this offseason. George Iloka and Reggie Nelson both had solid seasons last year. Nelson tied for the league-lead in interceptions, with eight, and he added 77 tackles. Iloka racked up 47 tackles and an interception of his own.
If the Bengals lose just one of these safeties, they will largely be reliant on Shawn Williams. In three years, Williams has accounted for only 54 tackles, 32 of which were from last year. He did improve his resume last year with two interceptions. He looks poised to take on a starting role, but if Cincinnati can find a solid safety in the draft, it would not be a bad choice.
Free agency will really decide if safety is a huge draft need or not. If the Bengals lose both Iloka and Nelson, this will be the biggest need of the offseason, but if they only lose one of them, then it will still be a need, but not a pressing one.
2. Wide Receiver
Like the safety position, the wide receiver need depends largely on free agency. Both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are scheduled to hit the market this offseason, and that could be two big blows to Cincinnati. The Bengals do have A.J. Green, but he will need someone to line up opposite of him.
Jones has the ability to tally up the numbers. He was Cincinnati’s second leading receiver with 816 yards, and he added four touchdowns to his stat line. Sanu is a big offensive weapon, not just catching the ball. He racked up 394 receiving yards last year, but he also ran the ball for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bengals need at least one other solid receiver on the other side of the formation next year, and they may have to find that in the draft. If they lose both Sanu and Jones to free agency, the Bengals will need to definitely draft talent for Andy Dalton to throw the ball to.
Adam Jones and Leon Hall are both free agents this offseason, and they were two of Cincinnati’s top cornerbacks. They each had over 60 tackles last year, and they combined for five interceptions on the season. The two have been great corners for the Bengals, but both of them might not return in 2016.
If the Bengals have to move ahead without both Jones and Hall, they will be looking at a starting duo of Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard. Kirkpatrick finally blossomed into a first-round caliber player in his fourth year with the team. He led all corners in tackles with 70, but he was unable to come down with an interception. Dennard played in only 10 games in 2015, and he was only able to tally up 20 tackles, but he did have an interception.
Dennard and Kirkpatrick may not be the best starting corner duo, so Cincinnati may need to improve this position. Kirkpatrick and Dennard are both first-round draft picks, and if the Bengals cannot bring back Jones and/or Hall, they may be using another first-round pick on a corner this year.
Erick Starkey is a Staff Writer for the Cincinnati Bengals for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @estark22.