All options on the table as Bengals look to add depth


With no glaring weaknesses on a roster that has produced back-to-back playoff berths, the Cincinnati Bengals enter the NFL Draft with plenty of options, and plenty of picks.

Starting with the 21st overall pick, the Bengals own three of the first 53 choices and four of the top 84 thanks to the Carson Palmer trade.

“I think it’s a great situation because we can continue to add some depth and guys that have an opportunity to really make a significant impact at some point,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We get a chance to replenish some sports which seem to be deep, both in the secondary and the defensive line. I think you never have enough of those kind of players. And we would like to continue to add depth at linebacker, get some younger, athletic bodies.”

With the signing of James Harrison, it’s doubtful the Bengals would go after a linebacker in the first round. And there’s even less chance the pick will be a quarterback. But every other position is a possibility.

Tuesday morning Lewis said he remains hopeful the team can work out a deal with free agent right tackle Andre Smith before the draft.

“I know Andre would like to get it done,” Lewis said. “I think he’d feel better about things so he doesn’t get lost without a chair somewhere.”

If Smith is still unsigned when the Bengals go on the clock, the likelihood of the first-round pick being a tackle greatly increases. Even if Smith is in the fold, it would not preclude the Bengals from using one of their first few picks on another tackle.

“Offensive line-wise, we’ve got an opportunity to add younger guys,” Lewis said. “We’ve had good success with these guys we’ve been taking to come in here and contribute for us. We’ve got to keep that going.

“The running back situation, we’ve got an opportunity to get better there, and then receiver and tight end,” Lewis continued. “I don’t see, literally, an area on our football team that wouldn’t fit what we’re talking about.”

The biggest need is at safety, but since 2007 only four safeties have been drafted in the top 21. And this year’s safety class is an especially deep one.

But Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro and LSU’s Eric Reid fit the style of play Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer want at that position, and if one is still available when the Bengals pick in the first round, he likely will be heading to Cincinnati for a Friday press conference.

“We keep harping on the fit,” Lewis said. “If you’re an area scout and road scout, you understand that we’re not taking a little muscled-up strong safety. That guy doesn’t fit for me.

“We want to see guys who have great range,” Lewis added. “It’s difficult to play NFL defense right now if you don’t have guys with some range, some flexibility, some hips and some ability to cover down. We want to pressure people, and when you pressure people, somebody is put in position that they’ve got to be in coverage.”

The other area the Bengals are likely to address early is running back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is coming off a career year, but the team could use a speedier, change-of-pace back, even with the recent re-signing of Bernard Scott.

“If we could contrast from Benny a little bit, that would be at some point pretty good,” Lewis said. “But the most important thing is to have a guy who is going to make an impact over the next four seasons, minimum.”

Alabama’s Eddie Lacy would seem to fit that mold, and he’s likely to be there at 21. But the Bengals probably will address the position with one of their two picks in the second round, either at 37th overall (the pick from the Carson Palmer) trade or 54th.



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