CINCINNATI — This is one of the most important offseasons in Bengals' history.
They've won just six games over the past two years, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow has a chance to be a star in the NFL. This team has other quality pieces like Jessie Bates, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.
The Bengals need to do everything they can to put as many talented players around Burrow as possible this offseason.
They seem to know how important it is to build around their star passer, but that hasn't stopped them from sending mixed messages ahead of the NFL's open negotiating period, which starts on Monday at Noon.
"We are certainly not going to sit on our hands," Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin said last week. "We will be prepared to jump in and see what we can get done. Hopefully we will be able to get the things done that we envision."
That sounds like a team that's ready to push forward and be aggressive, but are they willing to go outside their comfort zone for a second straight offseason?
The organization has somewhere between $40-$43 million in cap space, but it sounds like nearly half of that is dedicated to their eight draft selections and other in-season items according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.
"With the cap being shorn by about $15 million in the wake of the pandemic, the Bengals have acknowledged that they look to be in better shape than most teams," Hobson wrote on Sunday. "As the cap sits at $182.5 million, the Bengals figure to have about $20 million to spend in cap dollars after budgeting $11 million for draft picks and accounting for other items like injuries, practice squad players and incentives."
The Bengals have plenty of needs. They need to add three new starters on the offensive line, plus they desperately need to bolster their pass rush and defensive line.
Using just $20 million of cap space won't be enough to put the team around Burrow that most envision.
It's worth noting that the Bengals spent much more than expected last offseason.
They could certainly push the envelope again.
That's exactly what they should do with Burrow under center. They need to spend money, be aggressive and put quality pieces around their franchise star.
The Bengals will get their opportunity to attack free agency. They can go after Trent Williams, Joe Thuney or any number of free agents when the NFL's open negotiating period begins.
This is arguably the most important offseason in Bengals' history and it starts on Monday at Noon.
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