The Cincinnati Bengals currently sit at 0-9 and are clearly the worst team in the NFL. Recently, they benched Andy Dalton in favor of rookie Ryan Finley, and Finley’s first start against the Baltimore Ravens was nothing short of a disaster. The Bengals entered the season with many questions, namely the decision to hire Zac Taylor as the team’s head coach. Also, it is worth noting that many, including Bengals fans, thought that the Bengals botched the opportunity to acquire more draft picks at the NFL trade deadline. If the Bengals decided to trade players such as AJ Green, Carlos Dunlap and possibly Geno Atkins, they would have added a great deal of draft capital; however, Cincinnati decided to stand pat. 

There is some good news. It is a very likely scenario that the Bengals will find themselves winners in the 2020 NFL draft order department and have the opportunity to take whomever they view as the best player for their franchise. Is it a foregone conclusion that the Bengals will select a quarterback in the draft?

Before we examine which player makes the most sense for the Bengals with the first pick in the 2020 NFL draft, let’s take a deeper look at their roster, cap space, and draft needs. 

Cap Space

After releasing linebacker Preston Brown, the Bengals are projected to be $65 million under the NFL salary cap. They have the ability to free more cap space by releasing some veterans. First, it is almost certain that the Bengals will release Andy Dalton, which will free up an additional $17.7 million in cap space. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick seems like a goner and this move would open $8.5 million in additional salary cap space. These two moves would put the Bengals in the ballpark of $91 million in available cap space.

Then there is the elephant in the room: What do the Bengals do with offensive tackle Cordy Glenn? It is no secret that Cordy Glenn and the Bengals aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye. Releasing him would save $9.3 million in cap space. However, the Bengals offensive line is a dumpster fire and releasing Glenn would make the unit even worse. While it isn’t every day that we see franchise left tackles traded, we did see the Miami Dolphins trade Laremy Tunsil for a Brinks truck full of high draft picks. Glenn wouldn’t command close to what Miami received in return for Tunsil, but he could fetch them a 3rd round draft pick. 

Needless to say, from a salary cap perspective, the Bengals are in very good shape.

Free Agents

So, with the Bengals having ample cap space, do they sign any of their own free agents? The Bengals free agents include:

  • A.J. Green, Wide Receiver
  • Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback
  • Trey Hopkins, Center
  • Tyler Eifert, Tight End
  • Nick Vigil, Linebacker
  • Andrew Billings, Defensive Tackle

From the list above, the Bengals have to sign AJ Green and Trey Hopkins. Green is one of the best players in franchise history and by not trading him at the deadline, the Bengals limited any value they can get in return for Green. If they traded him prior to the trade deadline, Green would have brought back a 2nd round pick in the 2020 draft as a worst-case scenario. If they do not sign him, at most the Bengals would get a 3rd round compensatory pick in the 2021 draft for losing Green. Due to this, Cincinnati forced their own hands and must sign AJ Green to an extension that will have him finish his career as a Bengal.

Trey Hopkins has been the lone bright spot on a poor Cincinnati offensive line. When all signs point to the Bengals taking a quarterback early in the 2020 NFL draft, it is paramount that they build an offensive line that can protect him. Keeping Hopkins around, paired with the return of 2019 1st round pick Jonah Williams is a good start to building a strong offensive line.

Moving on from Tyler Eifert isn’t an easy move, but there are major health concerns, so investing big money in Eifert at this point in his career seems like a move to avoid.

2020 NFL Draft Needs

When a team is 0-9, it is safe to assume they just about need help at every position. This is the case in Cincinnati. Most importantly, however, the team’s main needs consist of quarterback, linebacker, tight end and offensive line. 

There is no way that the Bengals will leave the 2020 draft without adding a quarterback that they plan on having around for the next decade. Their linebacker play has been among the league’s worst for quite some time and they would be foolish to not look for a serious upgrade early in the draft. While the 2020 draft does not contain a “blue chip” tight end prospect, there are some players that could present good value in the 3rd-4th round range. The Bengals should try their hardest to find a quality offensive linemen in the draft as well.

But with a potential number one overall selection coming, the Bengals seriously need to nail down the player they see as deserving. Ideally, it’s a player that can invigorate the fanbase, and reinvent the franchise.

Let’s take a look at who that top pick could be.