Super Bowl Disappointment … Again
Prior to this past NFL season, most experts picked the Cincinnati Bengals to finish at the bottom of the AFC North. The young Bengals set out to prove the experts wrong and rode a wave of momentum created by an explosive offense and a stout defense straight to Super Bowl LVI. Unfortunately, for the third time in franchise history, the Bengals watched as a team from California celebrated winning the big game.
The young Bengals put up quite a fight and led late in the game; however, the pressure from the Rams defense proved too much. Aaron Donald sacked Joe Burrow on 4th and 1 to put an end to the game. The final sack hurts more because pictures show that Ja’marr Chase cooked Jalen Ramsey and was running wide open at the 20-yard line.
After the game, Burrow stated that the team will learn from its mistakes and will be back. I believe the Bengals can make it back; but, what offseason moves will help the team take the next step to Super Bowl Champions?
Bengals Offseason Goal #1: Protect Joe Burrow
The offensive line is a major, major problem. Opponents sacked Burrow 70 times this past season (including the postseason). He lost the 2020-2021 season to a demolished knee. Constant pressure left Burrow running for his life on countless occasions during the past two seasons.
To keep Joe Burrow alive and to take the next step, the Cincinnati Bengals need to address the offensive line. In 2021, the Bengals drafted Jackson Carman from Clemson and signed free agent Riley Reiff (who was sidelined with injuries, forcing Isaiah Prince into action). Carman, a tackle in college, played guard, but couldn’t perform consistently enough and ended up splitting time with Hakeem Adeniji at right guard.
Did I mention the offensive line was a major, major problem? In the regular season, Burrow played in all but the final game against Cleveland, amassing 51 sacks. While it is difficult to be accurate when your butt is on the turf, he threw for 4,611 yards and 34 TDs. Some of those sacks are on Burrow — he does tend to hold the ball a bit in order to try and make something happen. Imagine what he could do behind a serviceable offensive line.
Let’s not forget Joe Mixon, he is a stud (but not in the game at the end Zac?) who has run behind a lower-third graded run-blocking line. Solidifying the run game will make this offense that much more dangerous.
How do we fix the line? I’m glad you asked.
Bengals Offseason Goals: Free Agency
According to Spotrac, the Bengals have an estimated $55 million in cap space to spend in the upcoming offseason. Cincinnati dished out money to bolster the defense in the past two years (see D.J. Reader, Mike Hilton, Vonn Bell, Chidobe Awuzie, and Trey Hendrickson) — it is time to do the same on the offensive line.
Who should the Bengals target to help the line? Right guard was a mess, the position can be solidified by one of Brandon Scherff, Connor Williams, or Laken Thompson. If their potential price scares you, Andrew Norwell or Alex Cappa may provide cheaper options.
One of the aforementioned players could help shore up the middle, but what about the tackle spot? Terron Armstead would certainly look good blocking for Burrow (and Mixon). Move Jonah Williams to right tackle and slot Armstead at left tackle. Solid bookends. Riley Reiff remains a viable option here. Unfortunately, his season-ending injury may give the front office reason to be cautious.
The Bengals have plenty of money to spend and now have a team that can lure top free agents. Use that cache to improve the offensive line.
Bengals Offseason Goal: The Draft
If you prefer using the draft to improve the offensive line, there are plenty of options. Sitting in the 31st spot, a player the caliber of Trevor Penning or Bernhard Raimann could slip to the Bengals. Both of these young men are solid performers that could play early in their careers. A darkhorse candidate here is Zion Johnson, a versatile player who played snaps at both tackle and guard at Boston College.
The Bengals should also target an interior pass rusher, a tight end, and a young corner in the draft.
The Ultimate Goal: Build a Winner
The Cincinnati Bengals were so close to winning the Super Bowl, but all hope is not lost. The front office built a solid team through the draft and recent free agency. Now, the Bengals just need to follow the blueprint for another offseason. Another good run through free agency and the draft could insure that the AFC North will run through Cincinnati for years to come.