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Joe Burrow only solves one of the Bengals’ many problems

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Having a potential franchise quarterback is nice, but Cincinnati has more work to do.

NFL: DEC 29 Browns at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bengals suffered through an awful 2019 that saw longtime starter Andy Dalton get benched (on his birthday!) amidst a two-win season. Cincinnati was bad on both sides of the ball, giving up 34+ points four times and scoring 34+ points only once. Dalton can be released this offseason without any lasting damage to the Bengals’ salary cap, and his imminent departure should set the stage for a massive rebuild in southwest Ohio.

That rebuild will fully kick into gear at this year’s draft, which should bring reigning Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow to Cincinnati. He won’t be enough to fix this team all by himself.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-14), missed playoffs

The Bengals were so very, very bad in 2019, but their ineptitude came with a reward: the top overall pick in the upcoming draft.

Before free agency:

  1. Offensive tackle: Cincinnati QBs were sacked on more than seven percent of their dropbacks last fall, the 10th-worth rate in the league. Tackle Cordy Glenn can be released with zero cap repercussions this spring. Bobby Hart, he of the three-year, $16 million contract last offseason, could also give way to an upgrade. With a new quarterback incoming, pass protection should be the Bengals’ top priority on the veteran market.
  2. Linebacker: Cincinnati gave up 4.7 yards per carry and ranked 28th in Football Outsiders’ defensive run efficiency metric. Bringing in a productive tackler who can shed blocks and shoot gaps would add value to a linebacker group that only had seven non-sack tackles for loss in 2019.
  3. Quarterback: This isn’t so much a need in free agency as it is in the draft, but Cincinnati could make use of a veteran backup to help guide presumptive top pick Joe Burrow through his rookie year.

What Cincy Jungle wants most this offseason: The Bengals need to do everything in their power to ensure Burrow is set up for success as soon as he arrives in Cincinnati. The offensive line needs several upgrades, mainly at right tackle. They also need to get A.J. Green re-signed (done) and find a tight end that Burrow can rely on (much less done). Defensively, the Bengals must add an impact linebacker, preferably one in free agency who’s ready to make an instant impact and fill a gaping hole that’s been there for several years now. — Jason Marcum

After free agency:

The Bengals were active on the open market. Signees D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, and Vonn Bell could help accelerate their return to the postseason. While Reader should shine on the defensive line, Waynes, Bell, and Mackensie Alexander will try to overhaul the secondary.

  1. Offensive line: The team’s only free agent signing along the offensive line was guard Xavier Su’a-Filo. That’s a nice start, but Cincinnati will have to take advantage of a deep well of young tackles at this year’s draft.
  2. Linebacker: Cincinnati got better up front and in the secondary this spring, but there are still gaping holes to fill in between those two spots.
  3. Quarterback: It’ll be Burrow, but the Bengals still need to figure out if Andy Dalton will be shipped out of town or remain on the roster as a $17 million backup.

After the draft:

The Bengals never wavered on Burrow, and they even got him a big target with their next selection, taking Clemson receiver Tee Higgins in the second round. However, their only offensive line pickup was Kansas OT Hakeem Adeniji in the sixth round.

Cincinnati waited until the third round to address the linebacker spot with Wyoming’s Logan Wilson, who has the potential to start right away. They also added two more linebackers, Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither (fourth round) and Purdue’s Markus Bailey (seventh), who could provide good value.

Dan Kadar’s draft grade: A-