In the lead-up to the 2020 NFL Draft, we mapped out. Cincinnati did most of things on our list during the draft while putting themselves in a better position to compete in the always tough AFC North division.
The Bengals kicked off the entire draft by selecting LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who will replace Andy Dalton as the team's franchise quarterback (we'll have more on Dalton coming a little later). While there was some talk earlier this offseason about the Bengals possibly trading out of the No. 1 overall pick, the reality was that Cincinnati never had a reason to seriously consider trading back and passing up the chance to select Burrow, the top quarterback prospect in the draft. While nothing is a sure thing, no one will criticize the Bengals' decision to take Burrow, who is coming off arguably the greatest season a college quarterback has ever produced.
It's the move they had to make, and they did a great job supplementing that decision on Day 2 and 3, including giving Burrow a new receiver in Tee Higgins and offensive line depth, while adding a pair of linebackers to address the defense's biggest position of need. But let's turn our attention to the things the team still needs to address this offseason.
1. Find a difference-maker at tight end
The Bengals are extremely thin at this position entering 2020. Despite this fact, Cincinnati did not select a single tight end during the draft. One player that could have fit well in Cincinnati was former Dayton tight end Adam Trautman, who caught 31 passes in four seasons with the Flyers. Trautman was ultimately selected by the Saints with the 105th pick.
Cincinnati did pick up a tight end after the draft in Mitchell Wilcox, an undrafted rookie who caught 100 passes for 1,326 yards and 11 touchdowns at South Florida. Wilcox is part of a Bengals tight end unit that also includes Jordan Franks, Mason Schreck and Cethan Carter, a trio that has caught a combined two regular-season passes entering 2020.
Unfortunately for the Bengals, the current market at the tight end position is considerably bare. The team may decide to take a chance on Jordan Reed, a former Pro Bowler in Washington whose history with head injuries has put his career in jeopardy. Delanie Walker, a three-time Pro Bowler who will turn 36 in August, is another free agent option.
2. Add even more depth on the offensive line
While the additions of Xavier Su'a-Filo and Hakeem Adeniji were significant moves, Cincinnati still needs to add more depth to an offensive line that surrendered 48 sacks in 2019. The Bengals have signed two undrafted rookie offensive linemen in Iowa State's Josh Knipfel and Oregon State's Clay Cordasco. An All-Big 12 Honorable Mention performer in 2019, Knipfel started 39 consecutive games for the Cyclones. A full-time starter in 2019, Cordasco was part of a Beavers offensive line that helped produce seven 100-yard rushing efforts by Oregon State running backs.
Specifically, the Bengals should look for more help at tackle. Possible options in free agency at the position include Kelvin Beachum, Greg Robinson, Jason Peters and Chris Clark. Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler, could serve as a valuable mentor for a young Bengals offensive line that is hoping to make vast improvements in 2020. The Bengals are also expecting that Jonah Williams, the team's 2019 first-round pick, will be able to make an impact this season after missing his entire rookie year with a shoulder injury.
3. Bring in some running back help
The Bengals' decision not to select a running back during the draft could mean that team is confident that they will reach an agreement with Joe Mixon, if he and the team do not come to terms on a long-term contract. That being said, it would still make sense for Cincinnati to add another running back into the mix if things do go south with Mixon as it relates to his contract.
Cincinnati did sign former Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley shortly after the draft concluded. Whaley, who checks in at 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds, amassed 2,230 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns in four seasons with the Razorbacks.
4. Find a taker for Andy Dalton
Whilewith the reality that he may return to Cincinnati for the 2020 season, the Bengals would be better served trading him while getting his $16.3 million cap hit off the books. While Cincinnati was unable to trade him for a 2020 draft pick, the Bengals may still find value for Dalton via a trade sometime before the start of the 2020 season.
At this point in time, the most realistic trade scenario involving Dalton would be a team trading for him after suffering an injury to their starting quarterback. Given that Cam Newton and Joe Flacco are still on the open market, it appears that the Bengals may have to continue to wait before finding reasonable value for their former franchise quarterback.