The Cincinnati Bengals are set to host veteran pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan on a free-agent visit, and really shouldn’t let the four-time Pro Bowler leave the building without signing him to a contract.
Kerrigan is the veteran leader Cincinnati desperately needs on defense, both from a pure production standpoint and in terms of mentoring younger players.
If Bengals let Ryan Kerrigan leave without a deal, Washington may retain him
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport initially reported on the Bengals’ plans to meet with Kerrigan, but also added that the Washington Football Team is interested in re-signing him:
Kerrigan was phased out of Washington’s starting lineup last season upon the arrival of No. 2 overall draft pick Chase Young, who established himself as a captain and star player in living up to the hype as a rookie. Entering his age-33 season, there probably won’t be a big role for Kerrigan on the Football team in 2021.
That’s why Cincinnati must do all it can to ensure Kerrigan signs on the dotted line on Wednesday, because it’ll actually reflect better on the other big free-agent moves the Bengals have made thus far.
Ryan Kerrigan would thrive alongside Trey Hendrickson in Cincinnati
Trey Hendrickson was the big get for Cincinnati in free agency, yet he’s a one-year wonder who benefited from playing with Cameron Jordan in New Orleans. Jordan is one of the game’s premier edge defenders, so the Bengals are counting on Hendrickson to be “the man” in terms of rushing the passer.
Having someone like Kerrigan to take that pressure off would be a big boon to Hendrickson’s outlook for 2021 at least. With Washington’s depth up front, it can afford to lose Kerrigan, and he’ll likely want to go to a team like Cincinnati where he can play a prominent role.
The Bengals are somewhat infamous for their lack of fervor when it comes to pursuing roster upgrades and paying out what’s necessary to do so. With a young, promising quarterback in Joe Burrow to build around, hopefully that mentality has changed, even after losing Carl Lawson and William Jackson III to other teams.
Instead of paying Jackson like the No. 1 cornerback he is, Cincinnati opted for depth by signing the less-consistent Chidobe Awuzie and slot corner Mike Hilton. Some viewed Hendrickson as a downgrade from Lawson. If Kerrigan arrives and produces to the level he’s capable of (95.5 sacks in 10 seasons), those moves will look a lot better.
Other potential free-agent fits for Ryan Kerrigan
Considering that he took on a diminished role last season and that he lasted through the first major wave of free agency without being signed, Kerrigan is an extremely valuable open-market bargain for a playoff contender seeking a No. 2 defensive end.
Sticking with the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns leap to mind as a logical suitor. They don’t have much proven talent on the edge outside of Myles Garrett, so signing Kerrigan to a one-year deal could definitely be in the cards for Cleveland.
Another suitors to look out for who have similar needs are the Tennessee Titans. Despite signing Bud Dupree to a lucrative contract, Tennessee still has a need to rush the passer and could use someone with Kerrigan’s experience.
2 more moves Cincinnati Bengals should make after Ryan Kerrigan visit
Let’s circle back to the Bengals’ side of things. Once the front office does all it can in its sales pitch to land Kerrigan, whether they get him or not, they must turn the attention toward addressing other key spots on the roster where upgrades are necessary.
Yes, the NFL Draft is next month, and Cincinnati is picking high, but there’s still plenty of salary cap room available to pursue other players.
Even with the additions of Awuzie and Hilton, cornerback is still an area where the Bengals have shaky solutions at best. Hilton should do what he can to recruit his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate Steven Nelson to Cincinnati. Nelson was released on Tuesday, and could have the opportunity to face Pittsburgh twice per season. Cincinnati should be all over him.
Another useful acquisition for Cincinnati would be talented offensive guard Trai Turner. He’s coming off a nightmarish 2020 campaign, but for the five seasons before then, he earned Pro Bowl appearances. Turner is far better than most of the options the Bengals have in place, and protecting Burrow must be the top priority from now through the draft.