The Cincinnati Bengals fell just short of their pursuit of a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game after defeating them the prior season. There were a lot of factors that went into the Bengals losing the game, but arguably the biggest detriment was their inability to slow down Patrick Mahomes.
Despite Mahomes dealing with an ankle sprain, he picked the Bengals’ defense apart with relative ease. Cincinnati did register three sacks in the game, which was good for a unit that struggled to get after the quarterback all season. But, it wasn’t enough as Mahomes completed 29-of-43 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bengals have experienced more success than all but two teams in the NFL in the last two seasons. But, if they want to get over the hump and take home the Lombardi Trophy, they need to upgrade their pass rush.
Cincinnati is lacking a game-wrecking pass rusher on their defense which limits the impact that they can have late in the season. Trey Hendrickson led the way with 8.0 on the season, but the Bengals managed only 30 during the regular season.
If they can add a dominant pass rusher opposite of Hendrickson, they will be a much more dangerous team. One suggested trade target that they could go after is Khalil Mack of the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers are quickly descending into salary cap hell. They restructured a lot of contracts and are going to be in a brutal position next offseason. That is before taking into consideration the monster contract they are going to have to sign quarterback Justin Herbert to.
Mack’s cap hit for 2024 after his restructure is set to be $38.5 million, which could lead the Chargers to ship him out of town after only one season with the franchise. Even if it ends up being for only a one-season rental, Mack is an impact piece that could help the Bengals get over the top.
Cincinnati has some cap space to work with and knowing that a lucrative extension for their own quarterback Joe Burrow is on the horizon, now is the time to strike. If the opportunity to acquire a player of Mack’s caliber arises, they should jump at it.
What could it take to land him? A suggested trade would be the Nos. 60 and 246 overall picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, a second and seventh-round pick, from Cincinnati in exchange for the premier pass rusher.
After falling just short of a Super Bowl in two straight seasons, the Bengals should be aggressive in making additions before Burrow’s contract rises exponentially. For the Chargers, they can start to fill the roster with cost-effective players on rookie contracts as their salary cap concerns are going to be real in the coming years.