Season grade: D
Season summary: The Bengals entered 2016 with expectations of finally winning a playoff game, and they underachieved in almost every way. Cincinnati instead finished 6-9-1, its worst record since 2010. Offensive-line struggles, kicking problems and inconsistency on both sides doomed this team. The Bengals were in almost every game, but they couldn’t score in the fourth quarter when they needed it most, and they couldn’t win the close ones. Add in injuries to Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green, and the Bengals couldn’t rely on anyone else in their offense to move the chains. This team has a lot of talented players, but the Bengals ultimately did not play to their potential. They’ll miss the playoffs after five consecutive postseason berths.
Biggest draft need: Defensive end. There are a lot of options here. The Bengals need a left tackle of the future and an outside wide receiver. They’ll eventually need to add a defensive tackle. But an edge rusher makes sense in the first round to complement Carlos Dunlap after the Bengals' pass rush fell off this season.
Key offseason questions
What happens to Marvin Lewis? Bengals coach Marvin Lewis probably isn’t going anywhere, unless he has a late change of heart and decides to retire. Lewis is the winningest coach in franchise history, but he has received criticism for his 0-7 playoff record. He has one season left on his contract, and with the Bengals' history of loyalty, he’s not likely to go anywhere unless it’s on his own terms. But Lewis' contract status, and whether he gets another extension, is something to watch in the offseason.
Should the Bengals get younger? The Bengals have some decisions to make with some of their older veterans. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and nose tackle Domata Peko both are scheduled to become free agents. Defensive end Michael Johnson and linebacker Rey Maualuga remain under contract, but it’s not out of the question the Bengals will start looking to the future at some key spots.
How do you fix the offense? The Bengals' first season without former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was a trying one for the unit, which was among the bottom of the league in points per game. The Bengals' offensive line struggled, and quarterback Andy Dalton was inconsistent, especially under duress, as was frequently the case. There also was no reliable receiving option outside of Green. The Bengals need to address the offensive line-issues first, but they might also consider adding another receiver on the outside. They drafted Tyler Boyd in the second round last year, but Boyd is mostly a slot receiver. The Bengals need another set of reliable hands in the receiving group.