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Cincinnati Bengals 7-round mock draft before free agency

The Cincinnati Bengals will revamp the roster this week as free agency starts.

There, the Bengals have a big list of notable free agents slated for the open market headlined by Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell, Germaine Pratt and Hayden Hurst, to name a few.

While the Bengals would like a few of those guys back, the reality of becoming an annual contender means the open market inflates the prices of outgoing players. This could especially be true for defenders as the team looks to shift more of the money to the offensive side of the ball in order to handle extensions for Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins and eventually Ja’Marr Chase.

As always, the draft will be a critical supplemental piece of the equation. Before the market opens, here’s a look at a seven-round projection.

Round 1, No. 28: Dawand Jones, T, Ohio State

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The Bengals probably aren’t going to find and/or be able to afford a starting tackle in free agency or the draft. But they don’t technically need an immediate starter — just a prospect who can go right away in case La’el Collins isn’t ready for Week 1 and otherwise a long-term project. That’s Jones, a 6’8″, 360-pound tackle who can maul in the running game and make life tough on pass-rushers. If Collins is ready to go for the opener, Jones is versatile, much-needed depth.

Round 2, No. 60: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

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This works with the assumption the Bengals also addressed the tight end position in free agency at least once considering the top three names on the depth chart are free agents. Even in the second round, though, LaPorta might be able to start as a rookie. He’s a 6’4″ do-it-all weapon at the position and had 20 broken tackles last season, making him an interesting fourth target in the offense.

Round 3, No. 92: Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green

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It’s admittedly hard to get a read on where Brooks’ stock rests. But he’s a fascinating prospect regardless and as a 3-tech, he is exactly what the Bengals need next to DJ Reader. He’s a splendid, “small” interior pass-rusher who can rotate with B.J. Hill and others.

Round 4, No. 131: DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB

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It’s going to be some combination of free agency and the draft when the Bengals replace Joe Mixon and potentially Samaje Perine. McBride has some wicked footwork and fun power as a runner and scored 32 rushing touchdowns over his last two seasons while averaging at least 6.7 yards per carry each year.

Round 5, No. 165: Mekhi Blackmon, CB, USC

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Eli Apple is a free agent and Chidobe Awuzie continues to rehab, so cornerback is a likely pick starting right in Round 1. We didn’t find the right value above, but Blackmon is hard to argue. He’s a man-cover corner, just as the Bengals need, and he’s got that versatility coaches like having played on the boundary and inside.

Round 6, No. 206: Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan

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Tyler Boyd has one year left on his deal and odds are he won’t be back as the money goes to the other two spots. That means drafting a need one year in advance if possible, which brings us to Bell, a sure-handed slot prospect who gets nasty in the running game as necessary.

Round 7, No. 248: Kahlef Hailassie, DB, Western Kentucky

Dec 18, 2021; Boca Raton, Florida, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defensive back Kahlef Hailassie (12) attempts to tackle Appalachian State Mountaineers running back Nate Noel (20) during the first half in the 2021 Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Depth is a pretty big concern at cornerback so here’s another shot. The Bengals will be familiar with the local Hailassie, a 6’2″, 195-pound defensive back who as a redshirt junior over 12 games put up 65 tackles, three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles and interceptions. The production is off the charts and he can back up multiple spots.

Story originally appeared on Bengals Wire