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After narrowly missing their second straight Super Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in offseason mode, with notable free agents in the secondary, a few looming decisions to be made with their weapons, and a gigantic contract extension for QB Joe Burrow now hanging over the franchise.

Cincy hits February with around $44M of Top 51 cap space (prior to reserve/future signings), but as noted below, can fairly easily open up $15M+ with simple salary conversions and/or contract extensions this spring.

2023 Unrestricted Free Agents
Bengals’ 2023 Salary Cap Table

Notable Team Needs

Based on the positional breakdown below:

  • Cornerbacks & Safeties
  • Off-Ball Linebacker
  • Offensive Guard
  • Tight End
  • Running Back
  • Backup Quarterback

Potential Roster Bubbles or Restructures

The Quarterback Room

Joe Burrow enters Year 4 of his rookie contract, now extension eligible for the first time. He’s guaranteed $5.5M for 2024, plus a 5th year option for 2024 that will need to be exercised by May, but the focus turns solely to his next long-term deal. Burrow values mathematically to a 6 year, $264M extension in our system, but $300M, with nearly $200M guaranteed seems a perfectly logical landing spot. Will he structure his deal in a way that can help the Bengals continue to remain in contention over the next 3-4 seasons?

Behind him, QB2 Brandon Allen is slated for free agency this March.

The Running Back Room

Joe Mixon didn’t quite match the outstanding 2021 campaign he posted (1,500+ yards, 16 TDs), but he was still a viable weapon, catching 60 passes while finding the end zone 9 times. With that said, his contract contains 2 years, $20.4M remaining, none of which is guaranteed or paid out as an early bonus. If the Bengals think they can flip this position on the fly, there’s $7.2M of cap to be freed up with an early release, $10M+ if Post 6/1. If the plan is to keep him, a base salary conversation + 3 void years can open up $6.5M of space.

Samaje Perine has completed his 2 year, $3.3M contract and is slated for unrestricted free agency. The 27-year-old posted a career high 681 yards from scrimmage & 6 touchdowns this year, factoring well in big moments down the stretch. There’s a world where the Bengals re-sign Perine in favor of moving on from Mixon here.

The Wide Receiver Room

Ja'Marr Chase enters Year 3 of his rookie contract, set to earn $3.4M on an $8.4M cap hit. He won’t become extension-eligible until after the 2023 season. The Bengals should be saving their change though, as the 22 year old already projects to a 4 year, $102M extension in our system - even before Justin Jefferson takes the market to another level.

2020 2nd rounder Tee Higgins enters a contract year in 2023, set to earn $3M including a proven performance escalator. The 24 year old is now extension eligible, carrying a $20M+ valuation in our system. Is he willing to accept WR2 money in a WR2 role behind Ja’Marr Chase for another 3 seasons, or does he aspire to cash in with a team looking to upgrade him to WR1 status?

28 year old Tyler Boyd caught a 5 year low 58 balls for 762 yards this past season. He’s entering a contract year in 2023, set to earn $8.9M on a $10.2M cap hit. The Bengals can free up $8.8M of space by moving on via trade or release, a stark possibility this offseason.

The Tight End Room

Hayden Hurst more than doubled his 2021 production this past season with the Bengals, and did plenty to at least be considered for a return to Cincy in 2023. He’s slated for unrestricted free agency this March, carrying a 1 year, $7M valuation in our system.

2019 2nd rounder Drew Sample is also headed to the open market, missing most of 2022 with a knee injury. UDFA Mitchell Wilcox & Patriots cast-off Devin Asiasi could be back in the mix.

The Offensive Line

Left Tackle Jonah Williams enters Year 5 of his rookie contract, set to earn a fully guaranteed $12.6M on his option salary. He’s a $15M player in our system, but it’s unclear as of now if the Bengals view him as a long-term option at the blindside tackle position.

4th-rounder Cordell Volson settled into his role as the Left Guard, now holding a non-guaranteed 3 year, $2.9M through 2025.

Veteran Center Ted Karras signed a 3 year deal this past March that only contained guarantees in 2022. He should be back in the fold next season on a $4.6M salary, $5.5M cap hit.

Right Guard Alex Cappa battled an ankle injury down the stretch but was an obvious upgrade at the position this season. None of the 3 years, $21.5M remaining on his contract are guaranteed, but an $8.7M cap hit for 2023 shouldn’t be an issue, and the Bengals can free up $3.5M of it with a base salary conversion + 3 void years.

Right Tackle La'el Collins holds a non-guaranteed 2 year, $14M contract from here out, including a $9.3M cap charge for 2023. $2.4M of his compensation is built into per-game-active bonuses.

The Defensive Line

D.J. Reader enters a contract year in 2023, set to earn $11.6M against a $15.5M cap figure. The #6 rated defensive lineman according to PFF carries a $16M valuation in our system, with Grady Jarrett’s 3 year, $50M re-up in Atlanta as a baseline comp.

B.J. Hill enters Year 2 of a 3 year, $30M deal, set to earn $7.5M against a $10.8M cap hit. Cincy can open up $4.8M of cap space by converting his base salary & roster bonus into signing bonus (+3 void years). Josh Tupou was a viable depth option, and should be back on his $1.5M cap figure.

Edge rushers Trey Hendrickson (2 years, $28M) & Sam Hubbard (3 years, $25.75M) both had outstanding seasons. Hubbard’s $9.9M cap figure shouldn’t be an issue, but Hendrickson’s current $15.4M charge likely gets restructured. A full salary + roster bonus conversation + 3 void years can open up over $9.3M of space.

The Linebackers

2020 3rd rounder Logan Wilson enters a contract year in 2023, set to earn $2.7M against a $3M cap hit (thanks to a proven performance escalation). He projects to a 3 year, $28M contract in our system. Wilson & Germaine Pratt posted excellent 2022 campaigns, with the latter now headed to the open market this March, holding a 4 year, $42M valuation.

2020 4th rounder Akeem Davis-Gaither also enters a contract year, and could be stepping into a much bigger role if Pratt walks. Joseph Ossai enters Year 3 of his rookie deal.

The Secondary

LCB Eli Apple, FS Jessie Bates III, & SS Vonn Bell are all slated for free agency this March make the secondary an absolute priority for the Bengals in the coming weeks. Bates played out 2022 on the franchise tag, bagging 71 tackles and 4 picks for his efforts. A second tag in 2023 would come in at $15.5M. Bates projects to a 4 year, $56M contract, while Bell & Apple value to around the $11M per year mark in our system.

Chidobe Awuzie, who missed half the season with a torn ACL should be ready for the start of 2023, enters a contract season set to earn $6.65M against a $7.9M cap hit. He and 2022 2nd rounder Cam Taylor-Britt could be asked to take on the bulk of the snaps barring a major addition to the cornerback room this offseason. Slot corner Mike Hilton carries a more than tenable $5.9M cap hit in 2023, and could even be a small restructure candidate to free up a few million.

2022 1st rounder Daxton Hill saw limited action this season, but could be thrust into a starting safety role with the expected vacancies.

The Special Teamers

2021 5th-round kicker Evan McPherson enters Year 3 of his rookie deal, coming off a bit of a struggling 2022 campaign (82% field goals, 90% PATs). He’s on a non-guaranteed 2 year, $2M deal for now.

UDFA P Drue Chrisman returns on a minimum salary for 2023, while Cincy likely runs it back with undrafted LS Cal Adomitis again next season.