Between now and the start of the new league year in March, TGS is providing brief summaries looking ahead at the offseason from the perspective of each NFL team. In this edition, we look at the Cincinnati Bengals.
2016 record: 6-9-1 — 3rd place, AFC North
What’s new? They have a top-10 pick for the first time since drafting A.J. Green fourth overall six years ago.
Projected salary cap space: $43 million — Ten teams have more space.
Key in-house free agents: OT Andrew Whitworth, G Kevin Zeitler, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, WR Brandon LaFell, RB Rex Burkhead
Have fun with that! (Actually, it’s not as bad as it looks. Whitworth had a great season but is 35 and 2015 second-round pick Jake Fisher deserves a shot. There should be room to bring back Zeitler, Burkhead only had one hot game and Kirkpatrick and LaFell are certainly replaceable.)
Key needs: Depends who they lose from the list above, but for now we’ll go with defensive backs (Kirkpatrick could be gone, they miss Reggie Nelson and Adam Jones might not be back), receivers (need more support for Green) and offensive linemen (the tackles are questionable and Zeitler will be a hot commodity inside).
Draft breakdown: They hold the No. 9 overall pick and have one pick per round the rest of the way. Status quo.
Other potential priorities: Vontaze Burfict is entering a contract year. They may want to take care of that sooner rather than later.
Outlook: The North could be wide open, and they have more cap space and a better draft outlook than the Steelers and Ravens. There’s reason for optimism.