Bengals 2021 draft targets after aggressive free agency

Cincinnati Bengals, 2021 NFL Free Agency. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals, 2021 NFL Free Agency. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals, even dating back to the 2020 offseason, have been pretty aggressive in free agency.

Before earning the number one pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and selecting Heisman winner Joe Burrow, the Bengals brought in Houston Texans defensive lineman DJ Reader on a big contract, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes on a big contract, and New Orleans Saints safety Vonn Bell on a decent contract along with nickel corner Mackensie Alexander.

Already in the 2021 free agency period, the Bengals are making more waves.

Before the new league year has even begun, the Bengals replaced pass rusher Carl Lawson with Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson, and they brought in some new blood at the cornerback position with Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton of the Cowboys and Steelers, respectively.

What’s abundantly clear from these acquisitions? The Bengals are investing the majority of their free agency assets on the defensive side of the ball, meaning the 2021 NFL Draft should have a heavy emphasis on offense, especially early on.

Notable 2020/2021 free agent acquisitions for the Bengals

  • DL DJ Reader
  • CB Trae Waynes
  • S Vonn Bell
  • DE Trey Hendrickson
  • CB Chidobe Awuzie
  • NCB Mike Hilton

Offensively, the investment just has not been there in terms of free agent dollars, even though the Bengals franchise-tagged AJ Green last offseason.

With some solid offensive linemen still available in free agency, the possibility exists that the Bengals will shift some of their attention there, but let’s take a look at three players who should be their top targets early in the 2021 NFL Draft.

1. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

With the depth of the offensive line class in both free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bengals have to at least consider the best non-quarterback with their top pick instead of just going for a need.

With AJ Green and John Ross gone this offseason, the Bengals should be looking into adding some more targets for Joe Burrow in the passing game in addition to bringing him some more protection.

Pitts is just a rare type of talent at the tight end position who can play in line, in the slot, split out wide, and do anything the team asks of him — and do it well.

Pitts is a superstar in the making and you could make a strong case for him behind Trevor Lawrence as the best player in this draft.

2. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Obviously adding protection for Joe Burrow is a high priority.

If the Bengals determine that Penei Sewell is the best player on their draft board at pick number five overall, they should not hesitate to take him.

If the difference between Sewell and someone like Kyle Pitts on their board overall is minimal, maybe you consider drafting for need instead of purely “best player” value.

Sewell didn’t play this past season but what he put on tape in two years at Oregon is nothing short of outstanding.

3. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Talking about the top non-QBs in this draft, the Bengals could reunite Joe Burrow with a familiar face.

Ja’Marr Chase won the Biletnikoff Award as the country’s top wide receiver with Burrow throwing him passes in the 2019 season, averaging over 21 yards per reception along the way.

He was absolutely outstanding and even with the presence of Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on the roster, the Bengals would be getting a true number one receiver in Chase to play on the outside.