Bengals trying to add more depth to defense

Cincinnati bringing in veteran defensive end for visit; reportedly sign safety

Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said the organization improved the pass rush with its first batch of free agent signings. Now it appears they are still trying to do more to add to that.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Bengals were bringing in Washington Football Team defensive end Ryan Kerrigan for a visit Wednesday. Kerrigan, 32, was a first-round draft pick by Washington in 2011 and is the team’s all-time sack leader with 95.5 sacks, including 5.5 last year.

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The Bengals also added to the defense Wednesday with the reported signing of former Falcons strong safety Ricardo Allen, a 2014 fifth-round pick who was released last month after starting 76 of 77 career games with Atlanta. He has 340 tackles, 26 passes defended and 11 interceptions in his career. On the offensive side of the ball, Cincinnati re-signed running back Samaje Perine to a two-year contract, the team announced Wednesday.

If Kerrigan’s visit goes well and results in his signing, he will be the seventh defensive player added by the Bengals in free agency, joining new defensive end Trey Hendrickson, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and cornerback Mike Hilton as the big pieces to the pass rush.

“Trey finished the season last year tied for second in the league in sacks, and Mike is one of the better blitzing DBs in the league,” Anarumo said. “Pressure wise, you’re looking at two guys who can affect it immediately. And Larry two years ago had 5.5 sacks from the inside position. We’re looking for good production from him as well.”

Hendrickson, a third-round draft pick by the Saints in 2017, was the most productive of the group in 2020, and the Bengals are hoping it was the start of something special as he ranked second in the league with 13.5 sacks in 2020.

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The 26-year-old defensive end had just 6.5 sacks over his first three seasons, but last year was his first as a full-time starter. Hendrickson replaces Carl Lawson, who signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the New York Jets after recording 5.5 sacks last year in his first season as a starter.

Anarumo didn’t want to compare the two players but noted Hendrickson’s ability to finish sacks stood out, especially after the team finished with just 17 sacks last year.

“I think Trey brings a very specific skillset,” Anarumo said. “He finished well this year, in terms of not only pressures but getting to the quarterback with his sack numbers. We think the world of Carl (Lawson) and we thank him for everything he did for us here. But Trey is with us now and I couldn’t be more excited about that.”

Hendrickson said he was informed early on the Saints weren’t going to be able to work out a deal to bring him back, but he felt like the “stars just aligned” for him to land in Cincinnati.

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He signed a four-year deal for $60 million.

“My wife is studying for he doctorate in pharmacy three hours south of Nashville so that was very special,” Hendrickson said. “That it’s a family run organization. Blue collar hardworking, loves football, that’s everything that’s about me. I can’t wait to work hard for this new organization and make this contract worth every penny.”

Former Saints safety Vonn Bell, who signed with the Bengals last offseason, helped in his recruitment.

“That speaks volumes to what they’re trying to build here,” Hendrickson said. “Working with Vonn down there, that was special. He’s a captain here, shows that they respect his voice and his opinion. Him being here, it’s something that goes to show that it’s more than football that they’re recruiting. It’s a locker room. It’s a lifestyle. You got guys checking their ego at that door. That’s where you build great teams. Great talent’s all over the league, but there’s not a lot of teams that are winning so we’re going to get this going here and get the right people in the door and move forward.”

Hendrickson is ready to play his part in that.

Throughout his career, he’s shown a willingness to sacrifice for the team, and he said that will be no different in Cincinnati. A tight end and defensive end out of Apopka High School in Florida, he played a big part in special teams and on defense at Florida Atlantic, leading the nation in blocked kicks as a senior with four and finishing 21st in sacks (0.79 per game). He contributed off the bench his first three years with the Saints before becoming a starter last year.

“It teaches you a lot about the game of football and you’re never bigger than the game,” he said of his past experiences. “…You’re never bigger than the game and the second you are, somebody else is hungrier than you are. I don’t plan on being passed up. I have a strong desire that’s internal. I’m not motivated by contract value. I’m not motivated by fame. I’m a loyal player. I play for the guys next to me. I love the game of football and I love the comradery that comes with it.”

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