Top B.J. Hill Landing Spots: Bills, Cowboys, Raiders, Bears could express interest in Bengals DT

    Where are the potential landing spots for Cincinnati Bengals DT B.J. Hill if he leaves via free agency in 2022?

    The last six months have been a whirlwind for Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle B.J. Hill. After being acquired by the Bengals in August, he’s become an integral part of the team’s run to Super Bowl 56. And in just a few weeks, he’ll hit the free-agent market. Will Cincinnati retain Hill? If not, where are his potential landing spots?

    B.J. Hill’s free-agent profile

    Bill Belichick won Executive of the Year at the 2021 NFL Honors ceremony, but Bengals de facto general manager Duke Tobin should have been in the running simply based on the trade that brought Hill to Cincinnati. Tobin dealt former first-round bust Billy Price to the Giants in exchange for Hill and a seventh-round draft pick in what ended up being one of the more one-sided trades of the 2021 campaign.

    Hill posted 2 sacks in his first game as a Bengal, but he wasn’t a starter for most of the season. Playing behind D.J. Reader and Larry Ogunjobi, Hill didn’t register a 60% snap share in a single game until Week 12. The former third-round pick started to earn more playing time down the stretch, and he’s had to step up in the playoffs after Ogunjobi went down with a foot injury in Cincinnati’s Wild Card round victory over the Raiders.

    During the regular season, Hill managed 5.5 sacks and 37 total pressures, with the latter ranking 25th among interior defensive linemen. But his most impactful play came in the AFC Championship Game. Down 8 points to the Chiefs near the end of the third quarter, Hill picked off Patrick Mahomes deep in Kansas City territory. Cincinnati quickly tied up the game, and Hill’s interception proved to be a turning point in what became a Bengals overtime victory.

    The Bengals will bring back Reader, Tyler Shelvin, and (potentially) restricted free agent Josh Tupou in 2022, but all three are nose tackle types. Ogunjobi and Mike Daniels, both of whom play 3-technique like Hill, are pending free agents. Cincinnati has plenty of cap space (nearly $60 million) to use on a Hill extension, but they also have to price in a complete overhaul of their offensive line.

    B.J. Hill’s landing spots

    If the Bengals don’t retain Hill, where could he sign? Here are a few possibilities.

    Buffalo Bills

    This year’s free-agent class of interior defenders is not very strong, so Hill ranks relatively high among a group that includes Calais Campbell, Akiem Hicks, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Jarran Reed, and Ogunjobi. Using recent contracts for Dalvin Tomlinson, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Davon Godchaux as comparables, Hill should be able to garner a multi-year deal worth $8-9 million annually.

    At first glance, that price doesn’t seem doable for the Bills, who are projected to be over the cap. But Buffalo has a number of base salaries that they can convert into signing bonuses to free up space, while DT Star Lotulelei could be released ($7.7 million savings). Additionally, the Bills could lose both Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler in free agency.

    Buffalo likes to run a rotation on the interior. Hill’s versatility might appeal to their coaching staff. Because he can play from a variety of alignments, Hill could line up alongside Ed Oliver, especially in sub packages.

    Dallas Cowboys

    Speaking of teams in need of financial breathing room, the Cowboys are projected to be $20+ million over the cap in 2022. But again, that number is misleading, as they have a number of restructures available (Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, Amari Cooper, among others) to create more space.

    Dallas is never a heavy spender in free agency, but they’ve been willing to invest at defensive tackle. Over the past two offseasons, they added players like Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Carlos Watkins, and Brent Urban.

    Osa Odighizuwa and Neville Gallimore showed flashes in 2021. The Cowboys can hope that they develop even further next season, but hope is not a plan. By signing Hill, Dallas would give themselves insurance in case one or both of those young defensive tackles don’t pan out.

    Las Vegas Raiders

    The Raiders’ run defense was pretty effective last season. They ranked seventh in expected points added (EPA) per play against the rush and 10th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (an efficiency metric). The only problem? The three Las Vegas interior defenders with the most snaps in 2021 — Quinton Jefferson, Johnathan Hankins, and Solomon Thomas — are all pending free agents.

    Hill would be a solid fit under new head coach Josh McDaniels, who presumably wants his defense to run multiple looks à la the Patriots. The only concern might be the presence of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who was the Giants’ DC for the past two years. He wasn’t making personnel decisions in New York, but the fact that the Giants traded Hill might mean that Graham didn’t protest the move.

    Chicago Bears

    With new head coach Matt Eberflus in town, the Bears will transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front in 2022. Whether they currently have the players in place to do so is unclear, while both Hicks and Bilal Nichols are unrestricted free agents. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Chicago releases nose tackle Eddie Goldman following his dismal 2021 campaign.

    Hill’s adaptability would fit well in Eberflus’ system and allow Chicago to target all types of defensive line cohorts elsewhere in free agency and/or the NFL Draft. Plus, the 26-year-old Hill is significantly younger than most of the other defensive tackles on the market. His youth should make him attractive to a Bears team that’s revamping its roster.

    Cleveland Browns

    The Browns need to figure out whether they can work out an extension with Jadeveon Clowney, but they also need to address the interior of their defensive line. Jordan Elliott will return next season, but Malik Jackson and Sheldon Day are free agents. Meanwhile, Malik McDowell is in legal trouble that could threaten his availability.

    It already seems set in stone that Cleveland will use its first-round pick on a receiver. They could use a mid-round selection on a defensive tackle, but a safer option might be signing a free agent like Hill. He would immediately step into the Browns’ starting lineup, and he’s unlikely to break the bank, giving general manager Andrew Berry the wherewithal to address other need areas.

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