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Cincinnati Bengals 2024 NFL offseason primer: Tons of cap space for one of AFC’s best teams

In Sports
February 23, 2024

Cincinnati Bengals‘ 2023 season: 9-8, missed playoffs

Overview: The Bengals are a good team that just missed having their quarterback at full strength really at any point in the season. Joe Burrow spend the first chunk of the season playing through a calf injury that he suffered in training camp, and then he was lost for the season after tearing a ligament in his wrist during a Week 11 game against the Ravens. Cincinnati was 5-5 at that point and was never able to fight its way into playoff contention despite some solid play from backup QB Jake Browning. It was a disappointing finish for a team that made the last two AFC championships and played in a Super Bowl just two seasons ago.

Burrow will be back in 2024 and the Bengals have a boatload of cap space, which means they could get back to being at the top of the conference with just one offseason. The defense needs a ton of work, but they’re still an extremely talented squad. Cashing in on this offseason could get the Bengals back in the race for a Lombardi Trophy.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

WR Tee Higgins
DL D.J. Reader
WR Tyler Boyd
OT Jonah Williams
CB Chidobe Awuzie

Who’s in/out? Considering their cap space, everyone might be able to come back for at least a year. Tee Higgins is a prime franchise tag candidate and they may even be able to bring back Tyler Boyd on a small deal that makes sense for continuity sake. Reader is coming off a season-ending quad injury, which puts his availability in doubt for the start of the 2024 season.

Wide receiver Tee Higgins will be one of the most sough-after free agents in the NFL this offseason. Will the Bengals find a way to keep him? (Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wide receiver Tee Higgins will be one of the most sough-after free agents in the NFL this offseason. Will the Bengals find a way to keep him? (Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Key free agent needs

Offensive line
Wide receiver
Cornerback

Why the holes? Cincinnati still hasn’t been able to figure out the interior of their offensive line in a meaningful way. Jonah Williams being a free agent only complicates that matter with the team potentially needing a new right tackle as well. Cornerback is a bit thin for the Bengals as well, creating a need to spend or draft one high this offseason. The team may look to add pass-catchers this offseason as the futures of Higgins and Boyd hang in the balance.

Do they have the money? The Bengals are one of the healthiest teams in the league in terms of the cap, projecting for $61.4 million in cap space, according to Spotrac.

Potential notable cuts

CB Mike Hilton
LB Germaine Pratt

Why they might be gone: There aren’t really too many cap casualties needed for the Bengals because they’re in good shape, but shelling Mike Hilton and Germaine Pratt could be moves they make to start the offseason. None of Pratt’s $6.9 million is guaranteed this season and only $1 million of Hilton’s $7.5 million is guaranteed.

Draft picks

1st round: No. 18
2nd round: No. 49 overall
3rd round: No. 80 overall
4th round
5th round
5th round (compensatory)
6th round
7th round
7th round (compensatory)

Good draft fit

Oregon State OL Taliese Fuaga

Why him? Fuaga’s long-term position in the NFL has yet to be figured out, but he’s an athletic, mean offensive lineman that projects well at guard or tackle. That’s exactly the type of player the Bengals need.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

Let’s just get Joe Burrow’s wrist healed and Tee Higgins tagged and go have a fantasy feast. When all the key pieces are healthy, Cincinnati’s offense is as dangerous as any in the league. Offensive tackle is a clear need for this team and fantasy managers aren’t about to argue against beefing up Burrow’s line. He must be protected at all costs. Joe Mixon isn’t a lock to return, but understudy Chase Brown was electric last season and there’s no shortage of available backs in free agency. With better injury luck, this squad will again be an elite group for fantasy purposes. — Andy Behrens

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