New faces: OT Jonah Williams, OG John Miller, CB B.W. Webb, DT Kerry Wynn, TE Drew Sample, LB Germaine Pratt, OG Michael Jordan
They’re gone: TE Tyler Kroft, LB Vontaze Burfict, DE Michael Johnson, OL Clint Boling, LB Vincent Rey, OT Cedric Ogbuehi
2019 snapshot: One of the league’s most conservative teams, the Bengals went off the rails — by their standards — in not only firing head coach Marvin Lewis but hiring a young, offensive mind from outside the organization in Zac Taylor. Lewis’ tenure probably should have ended much earlier, but credit the team for passing on familiar-but-lackluster options and swinging big with Taylor instead.
Other than the coaching change, the Bengals were predictably unflashy. They re-signed a trio of average-at-best players (OT Bobby Hart, LB Preston Brown, TE C.J. Uzomah) to surprisingly lucrative three-year deals (each more than $16 million), then gave similar contracts to Miller and Webb, both of whom were below-average starters with their former teams.
Cincinnati managed to keep a few talented players on short one-year contracts in TE Tyler Eifert ($4 million) and CB Darqueze Dennard ($4.5 million) and released Burfict, which was overdue.
A meat-and-potatoes draft added some nice pieces, but Williams — the long-term left tackle — is already lost for the year, and taking a blocking tight end (Sample) in Round 2 after re-signing two players at the position was awfully rich. Pratt (third round) could break into a mediocre linebacking corps, but he remains raw.
The Bengals’ best hope for improvement is for Taylor’s scheme to boost the offense, but the unit will have to overcome A.J. Green’s absence (ankle) for at least the early part of the season.
Get to know… OG Michael Jordan
Not to be confused with His Airness, the rookie fourth-rounder from Ohio State earned the starting job at left guard during preseason, while 2018 first-round pick Billy Price and former Buckeyes teammate remains on the bench. Whether that says more about Jordan or the Bengals’ lack of talent up front remains to be seen.
Worth the investment?
-Losing Williams to a season-ending injury is a major hit for the MVP chances of running back Joe Mixon and quarterback Andy Dalton, who were well down the board to begin with. In a division defined by defense, not having a blindside protector for Dalton is a big variable to factor into any futures.
-That includes the over/under win total, which checks in at a modest 5.5
Bottom line: Cincinnati finally made a much-needed coaching overhaul, but the roster doesn’t look much better elsewhere. Plenty of work remains, and getting to 6-10 will not be easy.