This year’s NFL salary cap is set for $182.5 million. Over a $15 million decrease from last season due to the economic consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Many teams across the league are in unfortunate salary cap situations. As for the Cincinnati Bengals? They are in an advantageous position.
According to OverTheCap, the Bengals have $41.3 million in available salary cap space as free agency is set to commence at 4 p.m. ET on March 17 (legal tampering begins 12 p.m. ET on Monday). Enough money for the franchise to actively pursue top-tier free agents.
“This year, we have flexibility, which is a good position to be in. We’re trying to best manage that number and come out of this free agency and the draft with the most help we can possibly get for our team,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said.
Follow along: Bengals free-agent tracker
Possible targets: Free agents the Bengals could add
The Bengals were significant players in free agency last year, signing marquee free agents D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes and Vonn Bell. Many expect the Bengals to aggressively pursue top free agents for the second straight year. The club certainly has the funds to do so this year, despite the NFL’s first salary cap reduction since 2011 (the year of the NFL lockout).
“I think that we're in a really good position, as well as very few teams in this league are in position right now,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said last week. “We feel comfortable with where we're at.”
Coming off three consecutive seasons at the bottom of the AFC North, the Bengals have plenty of holes to fill. The offensive line and defensive line are Cincinnati’s biggest areas of need.
The Bengals O-line gave up 48 sacks and 215 pressures, both at the bottom of the division. Cincinnati was also near the bottom of the league in rushing last season. Shoring up the offensive line will help the team’s passing and rushing attack.
Defensively, the Bengals ranked second to last in the AFC in pressures (193) and the club was last in the NFL in total sacks with 17. Generating pressure upfront is a priority for the squad. Cincinnati’s top pass rusher Carl Lawson is a free agent, which exacerbates the problem upfront.
“We've had a lot of areas of need that we'll address these next couple weeks, and I'm excited to start that process with free agency and the draft,” Taylor said during his Zoom press conference last week. “There's a lot of ways that we can help plug some of the holes that we have on both sides of the ball.”
Neither Tobin nor Taylor shied away from stating the Bengals need to improve on both sides of the ball. The positive news is, the Bengals have a prime opportunity to upgrade their roster this week when free agency officially begins. They have the cash to do so.
“We’re in a good position to be flexible as the week goes. Nobody can really say how it’s all gonna shake out,” Taylor said. “We’re going to be in a position I think to add some really quality players that help us be a better football team next year.”
The Bengals are in a good position to improve their roster. We’ll find out very soon if they are able to successfully take full advantage of their opportunity.