Entering the 2024 NFL offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals aim to fortify their roster to mount a stronger challenge in the upcoming season. They narrowly missed the playoffs with a 9-8 record in 2023. As such, the team is determined to make strategic acquisitions that will enhance their competitiveness. It's quite evident that the Bengals must focus on acquiring pivotal players through trade to address areas needing improvement. This article explores the top two players the Bengals should pursue via trades in the 2024 NFL offseason to bolster their prospects of success in the fiercely competitive league.

Bengals' 2023 Season

The Bengals were unable to build upon their impressive 12–4 record from 2022. They encountered a major setback with a 34–20 defeat to division rivals Baltimore Ravens in Week 11. A loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 also formally dashed their playoff aspirations for the first time since 2020.

Bengals Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins amid NFL Free Agency

Struggling with a 5–4 start, the Bengals suffered a significant setback in Week 11 when franchise quarterback Joe Burrow sustained a season-ending wrist injury. Nevertheless, backup Jake Browning exceeded expectations. He guided the Bengals to their third consecutive winning season. Notably, Kevin Huber's absence marked the first season since 2008 without him, as he retired on July 7. A 31–14 victory over the Browns in the final game secured the Bengals' ninth win of the season. That was quite historic as every AFC North team finished above .500 for the first time since 1935.

However, the Bengals want to make sure they will return to the playoffs in the 2024-25 season.

Offseason Considerations

The handling of the Tee Higgins situation is the most intriguing offseason question for the Bengals. Contract extension negotiations between the two parties were reportedly unsuccessful. This indicates Higgins might not feature in the Bengals' future plans.

Although circumstances may change, employing a tag-and-trade strategy remains an option. The Bengals must also weigh considerations for extending Ja'Marr Chase. In this case, there is potential interest from other teams willing to trade a first-rounder for Higgins.

As for veteran defensive back TY Hilton, he could offer valuable assistance to numerous teams. Moreover, trading Hilton would provide the Bengals with a $6.5 million cap space boost. Sure, there are limited viable trade options. Still, the Bengals could execute a win-now approach by trading their first-round pick for a seasoned player capable of elevating their performance.

Having said that, the Bengals face an intriguing salary cap scenario. They initially possessed ample cap space. However, future financial commitments to Joe Burrow, coupled with an impending Chase extension, underscore the importance of prudent fiscal management for the team.

Here we will look at the two best players whom the Cincinnati Bengals must trade for during the 2024 NFL offseason.

DeForest Buckner, DT

For the Bengals, prioritizing draft picks in potential trades aligns with their successful history of drafting and developing talent. This is most notable on the defensive side. Continuing this strategy would obviously further strengthen their roster.

Should they opt for a veteran addition, though, DeForest Buckner of the Indianapolis Colts emerges as a strategic choice. The Colts stand to save $20.3 million against the cap by trading him. This makes him an enticing target for the Bengals' defensive line. Cincinnati struggled to contain the run in the previous season and lacked interior pass-rush support beyond BJ Hill's 4.5 sacks. Acquiring Buckner would inject star power into their defense. In addition, he has only a year remaining on his Colts contract and minimal guarantees. This means extending him aligns well with the Bengals' salary cap outlook for the next three years.

From the Colts' perspective, trading Buckner for draft picks offers increased cap flexibility. As such, they can potentially extend Michael Pittman Jr during the offseason.

Chukwuma Okorafor, OL

Yes, Chukwuma Okorafor encountered challenges in Pittsburgh. However, his experience as a right tackle presents a viable stop-gap solution should Jonah Williams not return. He is just 26 years old with two seasons as the Steelers' top right tackle. Okorafor offers valuable trade potential for the Steelers, yielding draft picks while freeing cap space. This makes sense on paper for both teams. Trading Okorafor would afford the Steelers $8.75 million in cap relief.

With 59 starts over six seasons, Okorafor's proven track record as an offensive tackle signifies stability and protection. His addition would bolster the Bengals' performance across the board. Acquiring someone like him signals their determination to succeed in the upcoming 2024 NFL season.

Looking Ahead

For sure, the Bengals face critical decisions in the 2024 NFL offseason. They want to elevate their competitiveness and address key areas of improvement. Targeting players like DeForest Buckner and Chukwuma Okorafor could fortify their roster and position them for a more successful campaign ahead.

The Bengals must navigate the intricacies of salary cap management while maintaining a keen eye on long-term roster development. That's whether pursuing draft picks or seasoned veterans. As the offseason unfolds, the Bengals' moves will shape their trajectory in 2024. They want it to be their big bounce-back season. Building up their roster would set the stage for what promises to be an intriguing and pivotal campaign ahead.