In the AFC Championship Game, the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. Consequently, that brought the Bengals’ 2022–23 season to an end. Despite the fact that free agency is still a few weeks away, it’s probable that they’ve already begun to compile their list of potential targets. To put it simply, this team needs a lot more depth and assistance on both sides of the ball. Here we’ll look at five sneaky good NFL free agents whom the Bengals must consider signing in the 2023 offseason.

Given their recent success deep in the playoffs, the Bengals could afford to be more reserved in free agency. This is especially with Joe Burrow expected to receive a significant contract extension. However, they must also consider the possibility of negotiating a long-term contract for star receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the near future. As a result, the Bengals will likely prioritize retaining key players from their current roster instead of making big moves in free agency. Despite this, every team still has needs. As such, the Bengals may still sign a player or two to improve their team in 2023. Therefore, here are a few potential small signings that Bengals general manager Duke Tobin and head coach Zac Taylor could consider.

Let’s look at five sneaky good free agents whom the Bengals must sign in the offseason. We have a couple of re-signees and a few others from other teams.

5. TE Hayden Hurst

Tight end Hayden Hurst’s fiery demeanor and dependable hands in the middle proved to be valuable for the Bengals during his one-year flier in 2022. Keep in mind that he has consistently earned an 80.0-plus PFF drop grade every season of his career. He had only five drops on 241 career targets. With the team preparing to offer massive contracts to Tee Higgins, Joe Burrow, and Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals must also consider investing in Hurst. He would certainly complement the Bengals’ exceptional downfield weapons on the outside. The team should definitely consider bringing him back on a budget-friendly deal for another season.

4. S Jessie Bates III

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Last season, Jessie Bates III and the Bengals were unable to agree on a long-term extension. This resulted in Bates playing under the franchise tag. He anchored the Bengals’ defense and proved himself to be one of the top coverage safeties in the league once again. Cincinnati fans believe the Bengals must re-sign Bates this offseason. As the glue that holds their secondary together, Bates deserves a big contract. It would be quite a regrettable mistake for the team if they miss out on this. With their top three pending free agents all part of their secondary, there is no question that Bates is a critical component. Therefore, it is imperative that the Bengals sign him to a long-term deal this offseason to avoid future regrets.

3. CB James Bradberry

Cincinnati’s defense was a key factor in their success during the 2022 season. It allowed an average of just 20.1 points per game and held opponents to less than 20 points in seven of their 12 victories. However, the team struggled in passing defense. It allowed 3,665 passing yards and 6.2 yards per pass attempt, ranking 23rd and 18th in the league, respectively. To bolster their defense, the Bengals could benefit from signing James Bradberry. He emerged as one of the best cornerbacks in the league during his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles. Bradberry was named to the All-Pro Second Team and would be a valuable addition to the Bengals. He would surely help to improve their passing defense and limit opponents.

2. EDGE Yannick Ngakoue

In keeping with the need to address their passing defense issues, the Bengals should also consider adding more players to their defensive line. Yannick Ngakoue from the Indianapolis Colts would be a good option. Despite being a journeyman, Ngakoue had one of his best seasons in 2022. He led the Colts in sacks and quarterback hits. He may be looking to join a contender and compete for a Super Bowl, making him an attractive target for the Bengals.

1. S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

The Bengals could potentially lose both starting safeties this offseason. This includes Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell. With that, Daxton Hill, the team’s 2022 first-round pick, may play safety or cornerback. This is where Chauncey Gardner-Johnson enters the field. He has also shown versatility, playing primarily in the slot before moving to a full-time safety role with the Eagles. Although Cincinnati has one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league in Mike Hilton, Gardner-Johnson could be asked to play safety. Despite a few missed games due to injury, he tied for the league lead in interceptions in 2022 and could potentially reunite with his former Saints teammate Trey Hendrickson in Cincinnati. While Gardner-Johnson may demand a high price point, he could still be a very good fit for the Bengals.