Key Additions: CB Mackensie Alexander (free agent), S Vonn Bell (free agent), LB Josh Bynes (free agent), DT D.J. Reader (free agent), CB LeShaun Sims (free agent), OG Xavier Su’a-Filo (free agent), WR Mike Thomas (free agent), CB Tre Waynes (free agent)

2020 NFL Draft: QB Joe Burrow, LSU (round 1), WR Tee Higgins, Clemson (round 2), LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming (round 3), LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State (round 4), DE Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame (round 5), OT Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas (round 6), LB Markus Bailey, Purdue (round 7)

Projected Offensive Starters: QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon, WR A.J. Green, WR Tyler Boyd, WR Tee Higgins, TE C.J. Usomah, LT Jonah Williams, LG Michael Jordan, C Trey Hopkins, RG Xavier Su’a-Filo, RT Bobby Hart

Projected Defensive Starters: LDE: Carlos Dunlap, LDT D.J. Reader, RDT Geno Atkins, RDE Sam Hubbard, WLB Germaine Pratt, MLB Josh Byrnes, SLB Logan Wilson, LCB Trae Waynes, RCB William Jackson III, SS Vonn Bell, FS Jessie Bates III

K: Randy Bullock

P: Kevin Huber

Head Coach: Zac Taylor

2019 Record: 2-14, 4th  place in AFC North

A Look Back: Nobody thought the Bengals would be good in 2019, but no one expected them to be as bad as they were. For all the talk about the Miami Dolphins “tanking for Tua” in the preseason, none of us imagined Cincinnati was consciously angling for the No. 1 pick. It turns out that going into battle with Andy Dalton as your quarterback with no significant roster updates or changes was all the tanking they needed.

But, as is usually the case, it’s the best thing that could have possibly happened to this moribund franchise. They didn’t even have to roll the dice on an injured Tua Tagovailoa because LSU’s Joe Burrow emerged as the nation’s best college quarterback since Andrew Luck came out of Stanford. And all the Bengals had to do to secure his services was just naturally suck.

2020 Projection: Good things are happening in Cincy and this is a superior roster all around than the one that took the field in 2019. Burrow was the right pick and Taylor will find plenty of ways to score points. They managed to keep A.J. Green and build a solid receiving corps (with the “as long as everyone is healthy” caveat). Their first rounder last season, Jonah Williams, should be healthy and an improved offensive line will do a lot to help Burrow thrive.

But here’s the problem. The AFC North is just too strong. While I’ve already predicted the Ravens won’t be as good, they’ll certainly be better than the Bengals and an even halfway decent Cleveland Browns team keeps Cincy from flirting with a winning record. Outside the North, they have games against the Philip Rivers-led Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. The Bengals will be better, more competitive and a hell of a lot more fun to watch. But there’s not a winning record to be had here. Not yet.

Projected 2020 Final Record: 6-10. Right now the Bengals pay out a -120 at over 5.5 wins and -165 at 5-9 victories. That 5-9 seems like an easy bet because if this team maxes out everything in which it’s capable, there’s no way it hits double digits. Not in the AFC North.

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