The Cincinnati Bengals are in a tough spot. For the first time in a long time, the Cleveland Browns aren't the laughingstock of the NFL. They went from 0-16 to 7-8-1 in one year.
That 7-8-1 record was good enough to climb out of last place in the division, as the Bengals went 6-10. Now the Browns are trending up, as are the Baltimore Ravens. Although the Pittsburgh Steelers have some issues, you can't count out Ben Roethlisberger and company just yet.
So where does that leave the Bengals? They're not good enough to win the division, but aren't miserable enough to be a clear tanking team.
With that in mind, exactly how will things go down for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019? Here are four bold predictions.
Trade A.J. Green
As I said, this Cincinnati Bengals team isn't going to win the division. However, the Bengals aren't quite bad enough to be near the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. With that in mind, they're going to have to make some moves.
Those moves could improve the team for a playoff push, or drop talent as they look for a higher draft pick.
The latter is the more-than-likely way the season will go for Cincinnati. If the Bengals have a weak record by their bye week (Week 9), it might be time to start making moves.
Their Week 8 game (against the Los Angeles Rams) happens two days before the trade deadline. A 2-6 or possibly a 3-5 record could be enough for Cincinnati to make some changes.
Getting rid of the team's top receiver (and one of the best in the NFL) in A.J. Green definitely hits the reset button.
While it would be tough to let someone of his caliber go, it might be necessary. The Bengals have proven they won't win with this team; drop Green for some future picks and ensure a higher pick this year in the process.
Bench Andy Dalton
We're going all-in on the tank-train at this point.
The Bengals haven't won much with Andy Dalton at quarterback. There is no reason to believe it will magically come together in 2019.
Cincinnati doesn't have any super exciting names behind Dalton on the roster. However, this is simply a tanking move, especially if the Bengals trade Green. Giving rookie Ryan Finley a look isn't a bad idea at that point.
Once the Bengals are out of playoff contention, they might realize keeping Dalton in will only win an extra game or two.
Due to that, Dalton's days as the starter in Cincinnati might be closer to ending than some realize.
Trade Tyler Eifert
Tyler Eifert will command a big contract when he becomes a free agent next year. The Cincinnati Bengals likely won't want to pay that to an injury-riddled tight end, especially with two solid names behind him.
The Bengals have C.J. Uzomah and new second-round pick Drew Sample at the position.
Eifert has played in 14 games combined the last three seasons. However, if he can stay healthy he's one of the best threats at the position. Due to that, there's no reason for the Bengals to keep him. Simply put, nothing works in their favor.
Here's the list.
- Injury problems cause the team to have to scramble
- When he's healthy he'll help Cincinnati win (although the team might want to tank)
- Contract is up after the season, and the Bengals likely won't want to re-sign him
There is no reason for Eifert to be in Cincinnati the entire year.
Jonah Williams makes All-Rookie Team
Not every bold prediction has to be negative. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Jonah Williams with the 11th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Williams is their left tackle of the future, but could make an impact immediately.
The left tackle dominated at Alabama and there's plenty of reason to believe he'll be the best offensive lineman to come out of this draft.
That domination could easily start in Year 1. The Bengals would be wise to give Williams one of the two tackle spots (he played both in College). Let him start learning on the job immediately, while the team likely isn't winning much in 2019.
With Williams getting the playing time, he'll show he's ready to be an elite tackle, earning All-Rookie Team honors and giving the Cincinnati Bengals something to brag about in 2019.