The Cincinnati Bengals went 7-9 in 2017. They will need to get better to reach the playoffs. Here are their top five targets in 2018 NFL free agency.
It has not been a great last two years for the Cincinnati Bengals. After making the AFC playoffs every year from 2011 to 2015 and not winning any playoff games, the Bengals have failed to quality the last two seasons. Apparently, 15 years of Marvin Lewis wasn’t enough, as he has re-upped with the Bengals for at least two more years.
Consistency is certainly key with this team, but the Bengals did lose former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to the same position with the Oakland Raiders. That being said, the Bengals were able to land more than a suitable replacement in the form of former Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Expect Austin to be an NFL head coach by the end of the decade.
While Cincinnati finished just 7-9 in 2017, the Bengals will have ample cap space to get better if they feel so inclined. According to Spotrac, the Bengals have $39,016,409 in available space before making any cuts. That puts Cincinnati 13th in the league and just above the league average of $37,465,522.
Cincinnati make look to bring back a lot of familiar faces with their sufficient cap space. However, it would make sense for them to target a few big names on the open market to hopefully shake some things up with this team. Here are the Bengals’ top five targets in 2018 NFL free agency.
ILB, Cincinnati Bengals
Inside linebacker is a tricky position in the modern NFL. Just a decade ago, it was a cornerstone position of an NFL defense. Now with the league being predominantly pass-heavy with a ton of three-wide receiver looks, the position has been grossly devalued. That being said, the Bengals do have one of the better inside linebackers hitting free agency in Kevin Minter.
Minter signed a one-year deal worth $4,250,000 with the Bengals in 2017. He had spent the previous four years with the team that drafted him in the Arizona Cardinals. Minter had a shortened 2017 campaign with the Bengals, as he only appeared in nine games, starting just seven of them.
However, he does play a premium position and he could very well follow Guenther to the Raiders in his second dip into free agency. Guenther likes to play veterans and guys he is familiar with. Minter would definitely check both of those boxes for the new Raiders’ defensive coordinator.
Could the Bengals upgrade at inside linebacker? Yes, but they could also whiff if they let Minter walk. He will only be 27 years old in 2018. It might cost the Bengals a bit more than they would have hoped because of supply and demand. However, it may not be a bad play for the Bengals to bring back Minter on a one or two-year extension with the team before he exits his prime.