Offseason Forecast: Cincinnati Bengals

*With the offseason officially underway, Around The NFL will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series rolls on with the perennially on-the-verge Bengals. *

What's changing?

Not much ... again. Credit goes to Marvin Lewis for building a team full of complementary talent, but in 12 years he has yet to win a playoff game. The latest was a 16-point loss in which Andy Dalton threw for only 155 yards and no touchdowns. Every year, we wonder if the Bengals will take the next step with a franchise quarterback and franchise receiver in tow. Every year, we finish the season by writing something like this.

Biggest free agents

» TE Jermaine Gresham: From the beginning, we imagined Gresham teaming with Tyler Eifert and giving the Bengals a New England-type look from 2011 (not quite as versatile, but certainly enough to extend the team's capabilities vertically). That hasn't happened. Injury got in the way and Gresham continues to be a liability in certain respects considering his mammoth snap counts.

» K Mike Nugent: Nugent missed a huge kick against the Panthers this year, giving us an epic 37-37 tie, but finished the season close to 80 percent on field goals. His 0-for-3 mark from beyond 50 yards will certainly be a point of evaluation, but there simply aren't that many reliable kickers on the market.

» LB Rey Maualuga: Maualuga played nearly 500 snaps on a team starved for depth at linebacker and missed some time due to injury. Despite what some may think, the Bengals' defense is better with him playing. Just check out this breakdown of rushing yards allowed when he's playing vs. when he's on the bench.

Other key free agents: S Taylor Mays, WR Brandon Tate, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, CB Terence Newman.

On the way out?

» Jermaine Gresham: This has been a long time coming. Many have speculated that the versatile tight end will hit the open market in search of a better opportunity. He would seem to be an ideal complementary piece for a few teams in need of a capable receiving tight end. Cincinnati has plenty invested in another player at that position who needs developing.

» Terence Newman: The cornerback has had a long and proud NFL career, but will the Bengals be interested in a player that is turning 37 before opening day? Also, Cincinnati doesn't have the feel of a ready-made championship team, which might not make them an appealing destination for a talented vet looking for one more good run at a title.

» Brandon Tate: Cincinnati needs a return man and Tate did the job admirably and at a low cost. However, the emergence of Odell Beckham has changed things (not changed as much as convinced owners to peek their heads down into the personnel department to request a similar player). Teams want dynamic special teams players to be able to contribute on offense as well. Tate hasn't caught many passes and the Bengals desperately need another play-maker to pair with A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu.

What they need

The Bengals need to make a move on one of the top pass rushers in free agency and draft another. Above all else, Cincinnati needs some bite on defense and with $8,697,310 in 2014 carryover, this offseason could be interesting, especially with the depth of talent saturating the early free agent market. After that, the next stop is help for Dalton.

Offseason crystal ball

Gresham will be let go and the Bengals will be active in free agency, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The team has been pretty good for a while now, but something has to change. Could this be the year?

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the free-agent quarterback market and discusses Peyton Manning's future. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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