The upstart Cincinnati Bengals have ascended to the summit of the AFC thus far in 2021. After beginning the season 5-2 and already having beaten divisional foes Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they find themselves in unfamiliar territory during head coach Zac Taylor’s third season. With winnable games on the horizon, Cincinnati finds themselves in a position to contend and could add another piece before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.
The Bengals are not typically active at the trade deadline. They are often reluctant to mortgage draft picks since that is how they have re-tooled in the past. This season, however, the fourth-youngest team in the league has performed admirably and could add depth or fill a hole via trade. They have already exceeded expectations seven weeks into the season. Cincy might add to that feel-good story by making a splash on Monday.
Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Trade Deadline Previews.
Cincinnati’s Current Status
Current Record: 5-2
Division Standings: First in the AFC North
In the Playoff Picture: Yes
Buyers or Sellers: Buyers
Current NFL Draft Slot: 26th Overall
Potential Trade #1: 2022 sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots for Ted Karras
The Bengals’ offensive line has been hammered all offseason by naysayers. The icing on the cake was the franchise’s decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell (how’s that working out?). The line has responded extremely well. Jonah Williams (No. 11 overall in 2019) and Riley Reiff (via Minnesota) have nailed down the tackle positions. The team could definitely use depth behind rookie Jackson Carman and vet Quinton Spain at the guard positions, however.
Additionally, Trey Hopkins has been vulnerable at center since returning from last season’s ACL tear. His backup, rookie Trey Hill, has shown he is not ready to be a starter. Enter Karras, who started all 16 games at center for the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and 15 for the Patriots in 2020. In 2021, he’s demonstrated his versatility by playing at both left and right guard and holds an 80-plus Pro Football Focus score in passing situations. While he’s demonstrated his value to New England and coach Bill Belichick, they have never been shy about accumulating draft picks.
Karras is probably only worth a seventh-round pick, but multiple teams will come calling. A sixth-round selection is still a very good price. The Bengals would be on the hook for around $850,000 for the remainder of the season, which is also an attractive price point for an interior lineman on a team that hopes to contend.
Potential Trade #2: 2022 fourth-round pick and 2023 fifth-round pick to the Denver Broncos for Kyle Fuller and a 2023 seventh-round pick
The new Denver “no-fly zone” is loaded with talent at the defensive back position. So loaded, in fact, that a 2018 All-Pro will be shopped around quite a bit prior to Tuesday’s deadline.
While fans in Cincinnati clamor for the likes of defensive backs Xavien Howard and Byron Jones of Miami, it’s unlikely to happen. Each have massive contracts that will cost Cincinnati when they try to re-sign their own players this offseason. In particular, Jessie Bates is one of the best safeties in the league and is going to command a king’s ransom.
Contracts aside, Howard and Jones would likely each require a first-round pick and then some. For a team that builds via the draft, that’s a steep price for the Bengals. Fuller, however, would come to the Queen City as a one-year rental and high potential to be re-signed. He has not flashed the form of 2018, but is a capable defensive back and would be a huge upgrade over Eli Apple while playing opposite Chidobe Awuzie. The fourth-round pick that the Bengals cough up won’t be more valuable than Fuller in the immediate future, and the fifth/seventh swap is likely a wash in 2023.
Potential Trade #3: Conditional seventh-round pick and Auden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles for Derek Barnett
The Bengals are in good shape for now, but that could change quickly with just one injury. Defensive end is another of those positions that they could add depth in case that happens. While Barnett has no sacks in 2021, he has 12 to his credit over the previous two seasons. He has totaled 19.5 in his career after being drafted in the first round (14th overall) by Philadelphia in 2017.
The Nashville, TN native has accumulated 84 solo tackles and forced three fumbles in under four seasons. While his cap hit sits just under $3 million, he is owed just $990,000 for the 2021 season. A portion of that has already been paid by the Eagles. They did restructure Barnett’s contract and he carries a dead cap of over $10 million. Philly will want to move him in as a part of a salary dump. It’s pricey, but just under $10 million for an excellent insurance policy for Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson is worth it. He would immediately be far better than the other options on the roster.
The seventh-round pick would carry a snap-count policy. If those Ends stay healthy, Barnett would be unlikely to play enough snaps to earn Philadelphia that pick. At this point, it becomes a one-for-one deal for Tate.
The wide-receiving corps in Philadelphia is talented, even as quarterback Jalen Hurts goes through some growing pains. Jalen Reagor has just 19 catches for under 200 yards this season and has disappointed. DeVonta Smith has looked the part, but Tate’s circus catches would help an inaccurate Hurts (57 percent completions so far) get over the hump. The wideout gets the opportunity to start after his talent has been buried on the depth chart in Cincinnati.
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I’m curious to know how Trey Hill has shown he’s not capable as being a starter at center when he haven’t played it started center. He played and started guard and ended up on a good note.