Projected Lineups: Cincinnati Bengals
After two straight seasons where they had gone to the playoffs as a Wild Card team, only to lose to the Houston Texans, the Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North with relative ease in 2013. A home encounter in the postseason couldn’t flip their fortunes, however, as they lost to the San Diego Chargers.
They head into the 2014 season looking like the strongest team in the division once again, but they do have some areas to work on if they want to keep the gap wide between them and the rest of the division, and push on as Super Bowl contenders.
– Player markers are colored per class on a five-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– Andy Dalton continues to be the source of much debate in Cincinnati and around the league. The up-and-down nature of his play is defined perfectly by his last few games in 2013. He had a grade of +6.1 or higher in two of the final four games of the regular season and then had a -6.6 horror show in the playoffs.
– Few offensive lines in the league look as good as the Bengals’. That’s not even accounting for the possibility of them bringing Anthony Collins back at left tackle, which would allow them to slide Andrew Whitworth to the left guard spot he was dominant at late in 2013.
– A.J. Green is on the cusp of being elite, but the Bengals have other talented weapons at wide receiver too. Marvin Jones had some big games for them in 2013, while Andrew Hawkins didn’t see the field until midway through the year due to injury, but has shown flashes of potential that he can be a dangerous slot option.
– Geno Atkins is coming of a knee injury, but at his best there isn’t a better defensive tackle in football. Fantastically disruptive against the run and the pass, the Bengals will be looking forward to welcoming him back next season. They are slated to lose their best edge defender in Michael Johnson, however, and we haven’t seen enough from a player like Margus Hunt to tell if he’s going to be able to step up.
– At linebacker, Vontaze Burfict had an excellent second season in the league, and is fast becoming a special player at the position. Rey Maualuga (-10.2) struggled again, although he was better than 2012 when he was our lowest-graded inside linebacker.
2014 Cap Situation
Very healthy. With $23.6 million available, the Indianapolis Colts and and Green Bay Packers are the only 2013 division winners who have more cap room this offseason. It allows them to sign their draft picks with ease, and will be enough to be able to make a run at keeping Johnson or replacing him with another top edge rusher if they want to.
Given how much they use him, the Bengals seem to really like defensive tackle Domata Peko, but -3.0 is his highest single-season grade over the past three years. Cutting him would save roughly $4.2M in cap space, allowing them to actually upgrade at the position too. Fellow defensive lineman Robert Geathers struggled in 2012, and missed almost all of 2013, and cutting him would free up $2.7M. Outside of that, there doesn’t appear to be much more room to be made without cutting a key player though that won’t be much of a concern given the health of their cap situation.
Opportunities from the Roster
Mohamed Sanu hasn’t been consistent enough throughout his career, but has shown enough flashes of potential that he’ll likely still see the field. Vincent Rey, a restricted free agent, looked very good at times in limited duty in 2013. It remains to be seen whether or not he would thrive in a bigger role, but his level of play to this point seems to indicate it’s worth giving him a chance.
Projected lineups by team:
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