Bengals pay up for Sheldon Rankins because his presence was desperately needed

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The Bengals finally addressed their top offseason priority Wednesday adding to the interior defense by agreeing to terms with former Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, according to a team source. The deal is for two years and $26 million, according to multiple reports.

Rankins will turn 30 next month and be on his third team in three seasons, but he’s been a consistent pass rusher inside. Rankins is No. 132 on Randy Mueller’s list of 150 free agents.

2023 pass rush performance (PFF)











Run Grade


14.6 (10th)

74.7 (29th)

5.9 (28th)

20.5% (11th)

39.1 (81st)

12.9% (19th)

79.1 (13th)

6.1 (23rd)

15.3% (36th)

75.3 (8th)

8.2% (54th)

65.1 (51st)

5.0 (45th)

13.4% (47th)

63.3 (29th)

4.4 (87th)

53.9 (84th)

2.6 (85th)

10.0% (71st)

49.1 (63rd)

How he fits

Just call him the new Larry Ogunjobi. When Bengals 3-technique B.J. Hill was at his best, he split time with Ogunjobi and even worked alongside him in passing situations. The last two years, the Bengals had to lean extensively on Hill to carry the load without a suitable backup. Hill played 75 percent of the snaps the past two seasons combined having not topped 50 percent the previous three seasons. Rankins is an animal as a pass rusher — just ask Alex Cappa — who was 10th among interior defenders in pass rush win rate last season. Suddenly, a push up the middle lacking juice gets a $26 million infusion of it. It could also provide less-is-more productivity from Hill.

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2024 impact

The Bengals’ pass rush up the middle last year, outside of DJ Reader, was nowhere near good enough. Too often the pass rush was Trey Hendrickson or bust. With Rankins flushing the quarterback, it could provide more opportunities for Hendrickson, who had 17.5 sacks last season.

Take a look at the PFF metrics on last year’s defensive tackles up against Rankins. It includes pass-rush productivity (PRP) and true pass set win percentage (TPSWIN%).

Likely, the lean to Rankins will come on passing downs as he didn’t grade so well against the run. Part of that was the Texans’ system of pass rush first and not worrying much about the run. For his career, Rankins has been more than solid against the run. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s philosophy could allow him to regain that level.


This wasn’t the first time the Bengals courted Rankins. They’d tried in two prior offseasons to land him, but Houston and the Jets both ended up signing him. The Bengals wouldn’t be denied this time. Which was apparent by how far they went out of their comfort zone. Not only is Rankins far older than they typically sign in free agency, but he’ll be one of three 30-year-olds on the roster next year, they also went beyond the upper reaches of his expected market. At $13 million per season, it’s a hefty price for a rotational 3-technique. Value the Bengals found with other signings in free agency along with a healthy amount of cap space allowed them to go all the way up the financial ladder to land him.

Cap update

Without knowing the specific cap hit for this year, the Bengals are likely to have around $30 million to $35 million remaining. But in reality, about two primary signings. There’s more than enough room to add a right tackle and the other defensive tackle spot as DJ Reader visited Detroit on Wednesday and target Teair Tart is still on the board.

Impact for 2024

His price tag tells the story. The Bengals knew they absolutely had to add pass rush on the inside. They couldn’t come away empty. Landing Rankins for a 500- to 600-snap split with Hill is exactly what the defense needs to cut down on so many explosive plays allowed and third-and-longs converted.

(Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

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