I know the final outcome hasn’t been exactly what the fans want as they’ve yet to win the Super Bowl, but the Cincinnati Bengals are one of the rare “best of both worlds” teams right now. Often times you either have a team that is young and building towards competing or you have a team that is competing now but they have a lot of older players with the clock ticking. The Bengals just so happen to be a young team that ALSO has the ability to compete now. The only questions remaining are A. can they win the big game and B. how long can they keep the band together?
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
Cincinnati Bengals 2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Preview
Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback
The Bengals only have one quarterback under contract for 2023
Joe Burrow – Age 26
Contract: Joe Burrow is a first-round pick so, on top of the four-year rookie deal locking him up through 2023, they can pick up his fifth-year option for 2024.
Outlook: If the rumors are true, you won’t need to worry about getting to that fifth-year option as there are reports that the Bengals are looking to target this off-season to extend Joe Burrow to a long-term contract. Not only that, but he even hinted that he could be willing to take a team-friendly deal to keep some of his friends around. We like the sound of that in the fantasy football world.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - He’s a buy at the current market value we are seeing. This is especially true in Superflex or six-point passing TD leagues vs. single QB or four-point passing (in the latter formats he’s obviously still a good option but always keep your eyes peeled for rushing upside as that really separates the very top options from the rest). As we all know, Burrow got hurt his rookie year but he was QB8 and QB4 in both formats the past two seasons after returning. He’s looking as “set it and forget it” as they come and, if his plan to keep his pass catchers around long-term pans out, he could be sitting pretty for a long time.
RESERVE/FUTURE: Jake Browning
FREE AGENTS: Brandon Allen
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
This team has their starter locked up so the reality of this QB room is that they simply need a reliable backup. And there are two ways you can go with that when you have a franchise QB. The first option is the one we as fans naturally lean towards which is having the best possible talent to step into that role if there is an injury. That’s how a team like the Ravens operate for instance with Lamar Jackson at QB and Tyler Huntley as the backup. Many NFL teams however lean into veterans as the backup who can operate as pseudo-coaches and run the scout team at a high level to give the defense a good look (and of course, step in if the starter gets hurt). That’s why you see guys like Brian Hoyer and Chad Henne get these jobs. Brandon Allen honestly covers both bases if you can bring him back on a reasonable deal.
Cincinnati Bengals Running Backs
The Bengals have two running backs under contract.
Joe Mixon – Age 26
Contract: Joe Mixon is under contract through 2023 with a club option for 2024. He could be released this year with $10 million in savings and $5.5 million in dead cap.
Outlook: Joe Mixon is coming off a top-10 RB season at age 26 so you’d think he’d be a sought-after asset in fantasy but his value has taken some hits in recent weeks. There were already some rumblings that he could be released and then a charge related to pointing a gun at a woman hit the papers.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - The charge against Joe Mixon was scary for his dynasty owners, especially when you consider his past violence issues. But here’s the thing - those charges have been dropped. We’ve seen this before with the Kansas City Chiefs where Tyreek Hill had a troubled past and then new allegations emerged. During that span, his dynasty value was at an all-time low and the team even drafted Mecole Hardman. But guess what? Nothing came of it. So a few people were able to buy him at a discount and they reaped the benefits of it. And I think Joe Mixon might be in a little buy-low window himself right now. The chargers have been dropped but the stigma is still there. The Bengals are not a lock to drop him - they might even renegotiate to extend him. And, if they do cut him, he’s a talented back that becomes one of the best free-agent RBs on the market. I’m absolutely willing to take a shot at that.
Chris Evans – Age 25
Contract: Chris Evans is under contract through 2024.
Outlook: Evans has been an intriguing player to us as he’s flashed his ability in the passing game at times and scored some pretty impressive touchdowns. But he couldn’t really beat out Samaje Perine for that job on passing downs so his playing time has been limited.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - I think there is a pocket of the dynasty community that still has high hopes for Chris Evans as we once did. But the reality here is that it was a pretty big indictment on him that he couldn’t beat out Perine. You might be able to sell him on the notion that Joe Mixon could be released and they have no one under contract but Evans is likely at best a third down back. And he’s already 25. I’d cash out now if you can and roll the dice in the rookie draft again.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
Even if they keep Mixon around, the Bengals need to fill out this room somehow. The easiest way to do it (and what Joe Burrow seems to want) is just to keep the guys they have around. Joe Mixon as the starter, Samaje Perine on pass downs, and Chris Evans as the third fiddle/special teamer works. Joe Mixon came into the league fairly young so he’s actually the same age as Joe Burrow right now - I know the two positions are treated differently when it comes to age but I doubt a lot of the guys in that locker room feel like Mixon is “old”. The Bengals have some options here but, if they are trying to compete now, I don’t think cutting Joe Mixon, signing Samaje Perine, then inserting a rookie RB is a really smart or safe move. And cutting Mixon, eating that dead cap, and signing someone like Saquon Barkley or Josh Jacobs isn’t a realistic option either.
Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receivers
The Bengals have five wide receivers under contract going into 2023:
Ja’Marr Chase – Age 22
Contract: Under contract through 2024 though they are highly likely to exercise his fifth-year option locking him up through at least 2025 as well.
Outlook: At the very least they have the fifth-year options for Burrow and Chase but, ideally, I think they want to extend both players to long-term deals. That’s what makes Ja’Marr Chase such a safe dynasty asset given he’s likely to be paired with the young star for a minimum of three more years.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - He’s a megastar. He’s in the conversation for the top overall dynasty asset in single QB leagues and he is well worth multiple first-round picks. Some folks will have Justin Jefferson as their WR1 in the rankings and that obviously makes sense as well but the situation surrounding Chase and his QB is slightly safer which is why he is my top dynasty asset in single QB leagues.
Tee Higgins – Age 24
Contract: Under contract through 2023 with no risk of being released. He is an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
Outlook: There were some brief trade rumors floating around but Tee Higgins shut those down pretty quickly. The reality is that he’s virtually locked in as a top-two target on a high-level passing offense making him an incredibly safe asset for 2023. The risk comes in 2024 when he’s likely to be the top free-agent wide receiver available, potentially commanding a contract exceeding $25 million per year. The good news is that Joe Burrow seems adamant about keeping the band together so they might be able to keep him around. If he does hit free agency, he could wind up the top pass catcher in a prolific offense, in which case his value could see an uptick. Or he could land in a less-than-favorable spot where he loses some value. That’s a big part of why Ja’Marr Chase is the more valuable dynasty asset.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD. Simply being a top-two target on the Bengals' offense gives Tee Higgins a fantasy WR1 upside in 2023. There is a perceived decrease in value for Higgins in the dynasty community as the “WR2” behind Ja’Marr Chase which hurts his trade value a bit but folks seem to forget that highly consolidated targets in high-volume pass attacks are often better than being the top target in bad offenses. We’ve seen it with Mike Evans/Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown/JuJu Smith-Schuster, Justin Jefferson/Adam Thielen, Tyler Lockett/DK Metcalf, Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders etc. So we’re holding Higgins right now or even buying him at market value if possible. He’s in a good spot.
Tyler Boyd – Age 28
Contract: Tyler Boyd is under contract through 2023. He could be released with $1.4 million in dead cap and $8,885,280 in cap savings this offseason. Otherwise, he is an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
Outlook: Back when it was essentially only Boyd and AJ Green, Boyd would play flanker in two-WR sets then move to slot for three-WR sets. With the additions of Chase and Higgins, he’s been relegated to a pure slot WR that leaves the field for two WR sets (he only exceeded 13 snaps out wide in ONE game this year in Week 9 when Ja’Marr Chase was out). That’s been the main factor in his declining production in recent years.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL. He’s a tough sell right now but I would try immediately. He’s the odd man out and we saw what he looked like in 2022 when guys got hurt - he was barely viable even then. With Tee Higgins a pending free agent in 2024 as well, the Bengals might even make a move in free agency or the draft which would put Boyd on the backburner right away. His hypothetical upside would be a scenario where another team swoops in and decides to make him a focal point of their offense either this year via trade or next via free agency but, given his age and profile, that’s simply not likely. Move him for anything you can.
Trenton Irwin – Age 27
Contract: Under contract through 2023 but could be retained for cheap as a restricted free agent in 2024. He could also be released this offseason with no dead cap and a $940,000 cap savings.
Outlook: Irwin is currently the preferred “next man up” when someone gets hurt which makes him little more than a stash in deep leagues for now. That said, he did play upwards of 75-85% of snaps when guys like Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase missed time, scoring four touchdowns. If he’s going to have a legitimate spike in dynasty value, that would come in 2024 when Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins are both free agents but it’s looking more and more like the team wants to keep both Chase AND Higgins.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL. In this instance, sell more likely means “drop” since no one is buying unless it’s a very deep format. The conditions for him to have fantasy relevance are pretty specific. Basically, you’d need the team to pick up his deal as an RFA going into 2024 and you’d need the team to move on from Tee Higgins and/or Tyler Boyd allowing him to slide into a top-two role behind Ja’Marr Chase. Not only is that unlikely but he would be 29 going into that season.
Stanley Morgan – Age 26
Contract: Under contract through 2023 but could be released with only $50,000 in dead cap and $1,130,000 in cap savings.
Outlook: Despite injuries to both Chase and Higgins, Morgan never cracked more than 15% of the offensive snaps in a game and did most of his work on special teams. He didn’t haul in his one target.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP. In four seasons, he has five receptions on fifteen targets. If he does make the team in 2024, it will be for special teams.
RESERVE/FUTURE: Kwamie Lassiter
FREE AGENTS: Trent Taylor
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
The Bengals technically have their starters lined up for 2023 and could proceed with only the addition of depth pieces this offseason (which they do need regardless). The offense is fully functional with Tee Higgins at split end, Ja’Marr Chase at flanker, and Tyler Boyd in the slot. In fact, it’s one of the very best out there. That said, the looming free agency of both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd could lead them to potentially draft a wide receiver in the 2023 draft which would give the Bengals a minimum of four years of a cheap WR deal, facilitating their ability to pay guys like Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Chidobe Awuzie, etc. If a wide receiver is drafted in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft, it would virtually vaporize the little remaining fantasy value of Tyler Boyd and potentially hurt the short-term value of Tee Higgins as well. Ja’Marr Chase’s value would likely remain unphased regardless as he’s the focal point of the offense and he’s locked in for the foreseeable future.
Cincinnati Bengals Tight Ends
The Bengals have one tight end under contract and two signed to reserve/future contracts.
Devin Asiasi – Age 25
Contract: The Bengals claimed Devin Asiasi after he was cut by the Patriots meaning they pick up his deal for 2023 with none of the attached guaranteed money. They can cut him for just over $1.1 million in savings with no dead cap.
Outlook: Given what we know about the New England Patriots and how they value the position, I would be SHOCKED if Asiasi were to turn around and become a fantasy-relevant tight end in this league. But he’s technically the only Bengals tight end signed to a real contract.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - You don’t need to hold onto Asiasi unless it’s an incredibly deep format.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook:
We’re going to hit on Hayden Hurst in full when we do our article covering the unrestricted free agents that are out there. But the reality for fantasy football is that we want guys who can be a top-two target on their team to have real upside. On this team, that’s already locked in as Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins and that’s before getting into Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon. So, despite popular belief, the Bengals really are not a good landing spot for a fantasy tight end. We need the OPPORTUNITY to have an upside. Playing with Joe Burrow is obviously nice but you also have to figure out how to become one of Burrow’s favorite targets. I’m looking to sell Hayden Hurst now and that’s especially true if the Bengals bring him back.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!
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