After a successful year in most's opinion, the Cincinnati Bengals head into their offseason with less to fix than most years. Looking to build their defense the last two years, they should and most likely will try to address a few glaring needs on offense throughout the coming months.
For the past five years, the Bengals offense had been their staple, the area they could count on to keep them in games. However in 2009, that was not the case. The team was led to a division title by their defense and let down in the playoffs against the Jets by their offense.
The first look at the offense could be at tight end, an area that was practically a non-factor for the team the last half of the 2009 season. While having a pass-catching tight end can only do so much, it was clearly something the team was in need of the second half of the season.
The Bengals could look to free agency first, but my hope personally is that they look closely at Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham in the draft. Whether he will be available with the 21st pick is unknown. Another possibility in the draft, could be one of Tim Tebow's former right hand men at Florida, Aaron Hernandez.
Apart from the tight end position, the Bengals are now coming up short in a position that they usually have an abundance of talent. After losing wide receiver Chris Henry earlier this season, the team clearly suffered from the lack of a true deep threat the bulk of the year.
While Mike Brown has finally showed some willingness to go out and spend some more money on the team, I can't exactly see him spearheading a charge after one of the big name wide receiver free agents like Brandon Marshall or Malcom Floyd, although anything is possible.
A more likely pick up in the receiver spot in free agency could see a return for former Bengals receiver Kevin Walter, who had a standout year with the Texans playing opposite of Andre Johnson.
Then again, the Bengals could look to go in the direction of wide receiver with their first round draft pick. A few names that may be available with the 21st pick are Damien Williams of USC and Brandon LaFell from LSU. Another possibility could be looking at a receiver in the second round like Golden Tate from Notre Dame.
Moving to the other side of the ball, the Bengals may have already made their biggest offseason signing this past week. They just re-inked defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to a three-year contract extension, when many feared he would jump ship to the Washington Redskins.
In bringing Zimmer back, the team will not only return one of the main reasons that the defense was much improved in 2009, but he will no doubt play a great part in the development of some of the younger Bengals on defense like Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers.
Outside of some bigger needs on offense, the most important signings on the defensive side might include retaining a few key players from this years squad. Veterans Tank Johnson and Roy Williams spent some time injured this season, but it would probably be in the team's best interest to bring them back next year, hopefully healthy.
Another area that the Bengals will most likely go in a different direction this spring is with the kicker position. Shane Graham almost certainly wrote his way out of town by missing two crucial field goals in the second half of the Wild Card game against the Jets.
Whether they address that by bringing in a rookie or a veteran will be interesting. Some names to remember there are Sebastian Janikowski of Oakland who is a free agent and former Jets kicker Mike Nugent, who grew up locally and attended Ohio State in college.
After a year in which the Bengals exceeded most everyone's expectations in the regular season, they will try to shore up for 2010 by adding strength and depth in a few different areas. The need for the team to improve is a necessity, especially when taking an eyeball glance at the teams the Bengals will face next season.
The schedule next season which will include games against the Chargers, Patriots, Saints, Falcons, Jets, and of course the rest of the AFC North, will surely be no cakewalk. The Bengals will hopefully look to prepare the squad this offseason for these matchups and beyond 2010.