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Offseason Forecast: Cincinnati Bengals

With the offseason officially underway, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series continues with the Cincinnati Bengals.

What's changing



With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» Cardinals | Niners | Rams | Seahawks

The coaching staff remains stable after posting a winning record in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 30 years. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer were both passed over for head-coaching opportunities after landing interviews. The biggest priority is ending the longest playoff victory drought in the NFL (22 seasons). If that's going to happen, the Bengals will need to surround a physically limited Andy Dalton with more playmakers.

Biggest free agents

» RT Andre Smith: An out-of-shape disappointment early in his career, Smith emerged as one of the NFL's finest right tackles in a contract season. He's a road-grader in the running game.

» LB Rey Maualuga: A weak link on an otherwise stout defense, Maualuga was too often out of position, leading to big plays up the middle. The Bengals have impressive second-year player Vontaze Burfict ready to move to the middle as Maualuga's replacement.

Other key free agents: DE Robert Geathers, RB Bernard Scott, FB Brian Leonard, LB Manny Lawson, LB Thomas Howard, DB Nate Clements, CB Adam Jones, K Mike Nugent

What they need


The Bengals need a speedy running back to complement bruiser BenJarvus Green-Ellis while threatening defenses on the perimeter. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu showed flashes as rookies, but Dalton could use a more reliable second fiddle to A.J. Green at wide receiver.

Depth is a concern on the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the secondary with key veterans reaching free agency.

Offseason crystal ball


It's hardly a surprise that tight-fisted owner/GM Mike Brown has plenty of salary-cap space available. As always, that money will first be used to sign his own players. Defensive end Michael Johnson's return under the franchise tag means the defense's second-most valuable player behind Geno Atkins will be back in the fold. Johnson's 11.5 sacks overshadowed his stellar work as a run defender. Signing Geathers remains a high priority.

The Bengals could end up losing Smith if they don't reach a long-term deal by March. Look for Cincinnati to take a playmaking tailback in the first couple of rounds of April's draft.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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