Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency: Which Defensive Tackles Could Be a Fit?

The biggest area of need for the Cincinnati Bengals is not exactly flush with options in free agency, but there are a handful of possible fits.

CINCINNATI — Unfortunately for the Cincinnati Bengals, the position where they need the most help doesn’t offer a lot of great options in free agency.

At least not realistically.

Yes, Chris Jones is great, and yes, he is available. But after using $20.7 million to franchise tag Tee Higgins and another $20+ million in annual salary to Jones —  or someone in his stratosphere like Christian Wilkins — there wouldn’t be much left to target other areas of need. And the Bengals have plenty.

In addition to salary, age is another important number to keep in mind when looking at possible fits in Cincinnati.

Free Agent Defensive Tackles the Bengals Could Target

In August 2018, the Bengals gave Geno Atkins a four-year, $65 million contract on the same day they paid Carlos Dunlap, then 29, a three-year, $40.7 million extension.

Their production never came close to matching their salaries, and, as a result, it’s probably going to be a long time before the Bengals offer a third contract to a player on the wrong side of 30.

As great as he is, Jones turns 30 in July.

DJ Reader turns 30 two days before Jones, which is why it seemed unlikely the Bengals would re-sign him.

Then Reader suffered a season-ending quad injury in December, which could leave him unable to pass a physical until closer to training camp, if not the regular season, leaving open the possibility for one of the most talented, respected players on the team the last three years to return on a one-year, incentive-heavy contract.

While the Bengals might be able to count on keeping Reader in the fold, they cannot be assured he will be the dominant force he was from 2020 to 22.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has four defensive tackles in his top 50 overall prospects.

The Bengals have two picks in the top 49, and there is a good chance each of the top four — Byron Murphy, Texas; Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois; Darius Robinson, Missouri; T’Vondre Sweat, Texas — will be available when the Bengals pick 18th in the first round.

And there’s an equal possibility all four could be gone when they pick at No. 49.

Adding a defensive tackle in free agency as well as in the draft — possibly multiple ones — would make sense for a team desperate to add quality and depth to the interior of the defensive line.

The presumed starters at the moment are B.J. Hill, who will be a free agent after this year, and Zach Carter, the 2022 third-round pick who has yet to live up to expectations. Behind them are Jay Tufele, Travis Bell, and 2023 practice squad members Domenique Davis and Dovonnsha Maxwell.

Let’s take a look at some affordable options to add to that group.

Javon Kinlaw, San Francisco 49ers

After an ACL injury and subsequent setback limited the 2020 first-round pick to 10 games combined in 2021-22, Kinlaw played all 17 games last year.

He finished with 3.5 sacks for the 49ers while playing 44 percent of the defensive snaps.

Kinlaw won’t be 27 until October, and Spotrac lists his market value at a reasonable two years, $10.8 million.

It’s also worth noting that Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo got to know Kinlaw well at the 2020 Senior Bowl, when the Bengals were coaching Kinlaw’s South squad. Kinlaw didn’t play in the game due to knee tendinitis, but he was one of the stars of the week in the practices.

Teair Tart, Tennessee Titans

The Bengals have played the Titans every year since Tennessee signed Tart as an undrafted college free agent in 2020, including the Week 4 game in 2023 when Tart had three quarterback hits against Joe Burrow.

Whether it’s been head coach Zac Taylor, former offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, or offensive line coach Frank Pollack talking about the Tennessee defense in preparation for those games the last four years, the praise for Tart and the Titans’ defensive line as a whole has been effusive.

Tart re-signed with Tennessee for one year and $4.3 million and played 47 percent of the defensive snaps.

The Titans knew they weren’t going to re-sign him this year, so they cut him in December, and the Houston Texans claimed him.

Tart will be 27 next week, and he should be available for close to the $4.3 million he earned last year.

Tim Settle, Buffalo Bills

He’s been in the league since 2018, but he won’t be 27 until July.

Settle is mainly a run-stuffing nose tackle, but he has played 3-technique as well. He played 36 percent of the snaps for the Bills the last two year, and his Spotrac market value is two years, $7.5 million.

Taven Bryan, Indianapolis Colts

A first-round pick in 2018, Bryan has played in 96 of a possible 99 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Colts.

MORE: Which 2023 Last-Place Team Has the Best Chance To Win a Division Title in 2024?

The Browns signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract in 2022, and last season, the Colts inked him for one year, $3.5 million, which is a good indication of what he’ll command this offseason. Bryan will turn 28 in March.

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