Cincinnati Bengals OTAs Preview: New-Look Safety Unit and Contract Talks Remain Dominate Storylines

Cincinnati Bengals OTAs will be dominated by contract talks surrounding Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins. But what on-field things should we look for in June?

The Cincinnati Bengals have been to consecutive AFC Championship Games and, for the second consecutive season, will not have mandatory workouts in the early summer. The Bengals’ OTAs will consist of six voluntary practices throughout June.

2023 Cincinnati Bengals OTAs Preview

There are multiple contract extensions looming in the not-so-distant future for the Bengals that will dominate headlines throughout camp as beat writers pry for quotes. And while there is certainly importance in those answers, the product on the field will be what gets the job done in January.

What will the Bengals’ safety rotation look like? Can DJ Turner find himself a spot on the field early on? And will Myles Murphy play a meaningful role alongside Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard starting Day 1?

Can Jordan… Battle for a Starting Role?

Bengals fans were not a fan of the Jordan Battle selection, which is a bit peculiar considering he’s a good football player. Sure, he may never be Derwin James because he’s not an elite athlete, but Battle’s more than capable of playing a split-safety role at an NFL level out of the gate.

MORE: Analyzing the Cincinnati Bengals’ Best and Worst-Case Scenarios

Nick Scott signed a three-year deal worth $12 million total. Only $3 million of that was guaranteed, and they could cut him now, in Year 1, and save money against the cap. Additionally, we’re seeing an influx of three safety defensive personnel groupings because teams don’t want to sacrifice too much in coverage by putting a third linebacker on the field.

That would also allow Lou Anarumo to move Dax Hill around in the slot, where he excelled while at Michigan as a run and underneath zone defender.

Where Does DJ Turner Fit?

We shouldn’t go as far as to say it doesn’t really matter, but Turner doesn’t need to see the field immediately. That’s not why he was drafted.

Chidobe Awuzie is coming off an ACL tear and may not be ready by Week 1, but that’s not the reason why Turner was selected. Cincinnati has been looking into the future for consecutive drafts now. First, they looked to replace Eli Apple for the foreseeable future with Cam Taylor-Britt. Hill was drafted to be Jessie Bates’ replacement. And now, they took Turner to replace Awuzie when his contract expires after this season.

As for Awuzie’s availability for Week 1, he himself said he was feeling good and eyeing a season-opening return.

“Hopefully, it’s not telling me I’m gonna have one in the future, but everything’s been moving steadily,”  Awuzie said. “You know, maybe I gotta thank my parents for my genes or something or the food that they fed me, but you know, I’m doing pretty good.”

So Turner likely won’t have to be relied upon immediately, although he’s talented enough to see the field immediately.

What To Expect From Myles Murphy

Murphy is a bit like cookie dough at the moment, but he’ll have a few different pass rushers on the field alongside him to help guide him in the right direction.

Hendrickson is an anomaly. It’s unbelievable that someone with such awful uniform swag could be a successful player. Nevertheless, he’s one of the best technical pass rushers in the NFL, boring uniform and all.

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On the other side, Hubbard provides the yin to Hendrickson’s yang. He’s an outstanding run defender who plays with his pants on fire and finally started finding some pass-rush productivity last season.

Murphy may actually find himself taking some of the early-down snaps away from Hendrickson, who would then get to pin his ears back on obvious passing downs.

Let’s Talk About Contracts

Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins are pretty good at playing football. Burrow will be the highest-paid player in NFL history when he eventually receives his extension. Higgins has proved himself an incredibly valuable second receiver who would likely be a No. 1 on about 20 NFL teams.

“I’m not going to rush things like that. When it comes, it comes,” Higgins told the media.

MORE: Can the Cincinnati Bengals Keep Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase?

Burrow has given a similar answer when discussing his contractual situation. Duke Tobin is the man handling these extensions as the general manager for the team. But with the way contracts work in the NFL, a ton of guaranteed money isn’t the easiest thing to put aside for some of the more cash-strapped teams. It’s not just about the salary cap, which can be manipulated in a million different ways and is only exploding with the new TV deal.

Dalton Miller is Pro Football Network’s Lead NFL Analyst. You can read all of Dalton’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @daltonbmiller.

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