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Cincinnati Bengals Free Agents 2022: Jessie Bates III and C.J. Uzomah highlight the list

The Cincinnati Bengals shocked the AFC North in 2021 and took the division title, but will they be able to retain key free agents in 2022?

Before the start of the 2021 regular season, how many people realistically had the Cincinnati Bengals taking the AFC North crown? Well, they did and made a valiant playoff push. Let’s run through Cincinnati’s 2022 free agents and which players they must bring back to return to the postseason.

Heading into the offseason, be sure to check out who are the top free agents at each position in the NFL in 2022.

Cincinnati Bengals free agents in 2022

According to Spotrac, the Bengals are projected to have roughly $59 million in salary-cap space this offseason. So, which in-house free agents should they bring back for 2022?

Top Bengals offensive free agents

Luckily for Cincinnati, they have few key free agents on the offensive side of the ball.

C.J. Uzomah | TE

C.J. Uzomah quietly had the best season of his seven-year career, hauling in 49 receptions for 493 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has spent every one of those years with the Bengals, and Cincy would be wise to retain him.

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His contract was $6 million this year, and his market value is around a two-year deal worth $7 million annually. Now, he may and should ask for above-market value, but the Bengals have the space thanks to a cheap offense.

Riley Reiff and Quinton Spain | OL

RT Riley Reiff and LG Quinton Spain are the best offensive linemen Cincinnati has outside of LT Jonah Williams. While the Bengals may want to re-sign both, losing them would require the massive OL overhaul fans have been asking for. Bringing Reiff and Spain back keeps the line mediocre, which is not what Joe Burrow and the offense deserve.

Top Bengals defensive free agents

Here is where the real fun happens. The Bengals have several key pieces of their secondary hitting free agency in 2022, but can they afford to let go?

Jessie Bates III | S

Cincinnati and Jessie Bates III couldn’t reach a long-term extension before the season started, leaving Bates flustered — which possibly contributed to his poor play this year. If the Bengals don’t want to commit massive long-term dollars to their 25-year-old safety just yet, they can use either the franchise or transition tag this offseason. While tagging Bates could further strain their relationship, Cincinnati needs to keep their best defender in-house.

Eli Apple, Vernon Hargreaves III, and Tre Flowers | CB

These three cornerbacks have contributed to a defense that has largely outperformed expectations in 2021. Receivers have exposed Eli Apple at times, but he has come into his own down the stretch. Meanwhile, Vernon Hargreaves III and Tre Flowers joined the team midseason but have played significant snaps.

The Bengals won’t re-sign each of these CBs, but Apple and Flowers should be near the top of the list.

Larry Ogunjobi, B.J. Hill, and Josh Tupou | DT

Cincinnati may have vastly changed defensive tackle room next season. Larry Ogunjobi, B.J. Hill, and Josh Tupou are all on expiring contracts. Ogunjobi has provided pressure up the middle all year, generating 7 sacks. However, he has struggled in run defense. That isn’t the case for Hill, who has helped stuff attempts up the middle. Tupou seems to be the odd man out, though he has played reasonable snaps this year.

Cincy must keep at least one of these DTs to pair with D.J. Reader, who has been phenomenal this year. If I had to choose only one to return, I’d invest in Hill due to his consistency and play against the run. Due to Ogunjobi’s sack numbers, he will likely ask for a much more expensive contract anyway.

The Bengals’ other free agents in 2022

  • Brandon Allen, QB
  • Mike Thomas, WR
  • Auden Tate, WR
  • Jordan Evans, LB
  • Jalen Davis, CB
  • Darius Phillips, CB
  • Ricardo Allen, S
  • Clark Harris, LS
  • Kevin Huber, P
  • Stanley Morgan, WR (RFA)
  • Fred Johnson, G (RFA)
  • Trenton Irwin, WR (ERFA)
  • Mitchell Wilcon, TE (ERFA)
  • Wyatt Ray, EDGE (ERFA)
  • Clay Johnston, LB (ERFA)

James Fragoza is a Writer and News Editor at Pro Football Network. You can read his other work here and follow him on Twitter @JamesFragoza.

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