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NFL Draft

3 Defensive Free Agents Bengals Should Target

  • The Draft Network
  • March 10, 2021
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Just last spring, Cincinnati served as one of the NFL’s biggest spenders throughout the open signing period. Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell, Mackensie Alexander, Josh Bynes, and D.J. Reader; all brought in defensively, creating a mosh pit of talent for Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

As March 17 swiftly approaches, the Bengals find themselves in a similar situation. With Carl Lawson and William Jackson III set to enter the open market, and Geno Atkins’ future currently up in the air despite his contract expiring in 2022, Cincinnati’s $40.9M in cap space could be put to good use, adding multiple pieces within one of the league's worst defensive units.

For Atkins, a two-time All-Pro and a Bengal since 2010, general manager Duke Tobin briefly addressed his future in a presser with reporters this week plainly stating “we’ll see.”

It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for one of the franchise’s top defenders and clear headliner within a Bengals defense lacking any sort of identity the last couple of seasons. Atkins, 33, is set to earn $14.7M on the second-to-last year of his contract extension signed back in 2018. Coming off a 2020 campaign in which he appeared in just eight games—a career low—Tobin could opt to move on from Atkins, saving $9.1M in cap space for a franchise undergoing a full rebuild.

Let’s take a look at three defensive free agents the Bengals could target in the coming days.

Matt Judon, EDGE, Baltimore Ravens

It starts up front. With fresh additions within the secondary in Waynes, Bell, and Alexander, their job would get that much easier with just an average pass rush.

Judon isn’t average. Potentially the prize of the offseason off the edge, Judon would immediately provide a jolt on the outside for Cincinnati. Staying in the AFC North could also draw Judon, and if the Ravens fail to re-sign him, the revenge card could most definitely be played here for the two-time Pro Bowler. 

With Lawson set to explore free agency, Sam Hubbard represents the Bengals’ top pass-rush threat. It’s a position that must be addressed, and Judon would be an ideal addition within Cincinnati’s front four.

Mike Hilton, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

With the likes of Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman drawing the attention at the top of the corner market, Hilton has carved a nice role for himself in the league working out of the slot. Alexander was underwhelming last year and the Bengals should welcome a playmaking nickel corner in Hilton to replace Alexander in a heartbeat. If the team successfully re-signs William Jackson III, the 27-year-old Hilton paired with Waynes would offer the Bengals optimism at the position heading into the fall. 

As a Steeler, Hilton excelled in the slot, recording at least one interception his first four years in Pittsburgh, with a career-high of three picks in 2020. Not only is the 5-foot-9 Hilton excellent near the line of scrimmage in press-man, but he also offers versatility in the run and as a blitzer, totaling 9.5 sacks through his career thus far. 

Roy Robertson-Harris, IDL, Chicago Bears

If Robertson-Harris leaves Chicago, his fit in Cincinnati cannot be denied. A former defensive end in Chicago’s 3-4 front, with the aforementioned situation surrounding Atkins, Reader desperately needs a running mate. 

At 6-foot-7, Robertson-Harris touts elite length with excellent versatility along the line. An occasional subpackage pass-rusher in Chicago, working within a 4-3 could allow his game to flourish, where his skill set as a rusher should develop as an effect of increased snaps. With Judon on the outside and Robertson-Harris in the interior, the Bengals would offer a nice tandem of additions on a front four in dire need of production.

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