The Cincinnati Bengals had a glaring issue rushing the passer and stopping the run last season. That can mainly be attributed to the defensive line play, which still needs a major upgrade. Even though the Bengals signed DE Trey Hendrickson and DT Larry Ogunjobi in NFL Free Agency , that is not enough to make the leap that this group needs to make.
The return of DT D.J. Reader will make a huge impact in stopping the run, as he was one of the best to do it while he was in Houston. Reader suffered a torn quad in Week 5 last year, and the Bengals line was a disaster after his injury. He is on track to be healthy when training camp rolls around, but it is still somewhat concerning after the severity of his injury if he will be at 100% this upcoming season.
The losses of DT Geno Atkins and DE Carl Lawson, who were the best pass rushers on the roster, leaves a major gap that needs filled. Re-signing DT Mike Daniels was a smart move by the franchise, but Daniels and Ogunjobi are on one-year deals, and depth remains an issue upfront for the Bengals. DT Josh Tupou will also be back on the roster after opting out of the 2020 season, which will help stop the run, but they severely lack pass rushing linemen on the interior.
Bengals Should Pursue Maurice Hurst in NFL Free Agency
DT Maurice Hurst Jr. is an excellent pass rushing defensive tackle, and he has to reach his full potential, at just 25 years old. The Michigan alumnus could have been a first-round pick if it were not for a heart condition, which led to him dropping to the fifth-round to the Raiders.
Hurst has the power and quickness to excel in the Bengals system, and due to Ogunjobi being somewhat inconsistent, the Bengals need to add depth at the position. Relying on an aging Daniels, and a recovering Reader, could be detrimental to the Bengals defensive line.
They could add a defensive tackle in the NFL Draft, but Hurst would not be expensive, and they should sign him on a multi-year deal for him to fully reach his ceiling. This would allow them to focus on defensive end in the draft to shore up their defensive front.
Hurst recorded a PFF grade of 77.9 last season, while only playing in 11 games due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list for several weeks. PFF also graded the Bengals as the third-worst defensive line in the NFL last season, and after losing the production that they did, they need to maximize every opportunity. Considering they still have over $20 million in remaining cap space, this move is a no-brainer.
Hurst would make an immediate impact, and he has clearly proved that he belongs in the NFL. They cannot rely on drafting a defensive end and tackle and hope for them to develop into starters someday. They need instant production, and Hurst gives them just that.