AFC Rumors: Bengals, Colts, Chark, Jets

The Bengals‘ Super Bowl LVI performance made their offensive line need known worldwide. While the team is not traditionally known for big-ticket free agency splashes, it has spent to fortify its defense over the past two offseasons. O-line reinforcements may be coming, too. At least, a growing expectation exists the Bengals will try to add multiple blockers in free agency, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Cincinnati still has Joe Burrow tied to a rookie contract through at least 2022 and holds nearly $35MM in cap space, as of Saturday. The Bengals have not been much for spending on guards, letting both Evan Mathis and Kevin Zeitler leave in free agency during the 2010s, but they may need to deviate from that blueprint soon. Cincinnati has been connected to centers ahead of the market’s opening, being mentioned as interested in Ryan Jensen and Bradley Bozeman. Not usually a closely monitored team in free agency, at least nationally, the Bengals will see their O-line strategy spotlighted soon.

With the legal tampering period less than 48 hours away, here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Mentioned in this week’s Amari Cooper trade talks, the Dolphins saw the Browns acquire the veteran from the Cowboys. The Dolphins also may have their eye on a cheaper option. They have been connected to D.J. Chark ahead of free agency’s outset, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus tweets. Despite changing coaches again, the Jaguars would like to re-sign Chark. The Dolphins’ 2021 receiver plan partially worked out, with Jaylen Waddle showing immediate promise. But Will Fuller bombed on his one-year Miami deal. The Fins also have DeVante Parker headed into his age-29 season. Chark suffered a fractured ankle in October but surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in 2019. He may not have to settle for a prove-it deal in free agency.
  • In what would make for interesting trade talks, Gardner Minshew is a name to watch for the Colts, La Canfora tweets. Not only did the Colts acquire Carson Wentz from the Eagles last year, they faced Minshew during the 2019 and ’20 seasons when he piloted bad Jaguars teams. Of course, Minshew went 2-0 as a starter against Indianapolis during his Jacksonville stay. The Colts landed a surprising return for Wentz, but they now have a glaring QB need again. One year remains on Minshew’s rookie contract.
  • Some of Joe Douglas‘ top draft choices have fallen out of favor with the Jets. Not only has Mekhi Becton struggled with injuries and his weight, but Connor Hughes of The Athletic notes the Jets were close to benching the former first-round left tackle before his Week 1 injury last year (subscription required). Becton reporting to the team’s offseason program and training camp in less-than-ideal shape irked the Jets, and the knee injury sustained cost him 16 games. The mammoth edge blocker showed promise when available as a rookie, but going into 2022, he appears behind George Fant to be Gang Green’s left tackle.
  • While Becton has displayed starter-caliber talent, Denzel Mims has barely seen the field. The 2020 second-round pick has clashed with coaches during practices, Hughes adds, leading to a real chance he will not be with the Jets when they set their 53-man roster in September. Mims caught eight passes for 133 yards last season. Although the Jets are holding out hope the 6-foot-3 wideout will pan out, his future is very much in question.
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