Bengals Must Re-Sign Clint Boling


Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals guard Clint Boling (65) blocks versus the Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

This coming March, Clint Boling‘s rookie deal will run out and he’ll be hitting free agency for the first time in his career.  Drafted in 2011 along with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, Boling has become an often over-looked selection from that year.  Yet this shouldn’t dissuade the Bengals from making Clint Boling a priority this off-season.

The four-year veteran guard has become an integral member of the Bengals’ offensive line and may have had his finest year in 2014.  His year was even more impressive when considering that his 2013 campaign was cut short when he tore his ACL in Week 13.  Boling recovered quickly and was ready for the start of 2014.

Clint Boling’s performance in 2014 earned him a solid grade from Pro Football Focus, which has deemed him the third best free agent guard heading into 2015.  This type of performance should make Boling an attractive free agent to guard-needy teams.  Bleacher Report’s Ryan Riddle wrote that Boling is a “hidden gem” that would be a good fit for Mike Zimmer’s Minnesota Vikings.  If the Bengals want to keep Boling going forward, they shouldn’t waste time in doing so.

But more than his performance across his four years, the Bengals would do well to consider a few things.  First, an offensive line’s performance often hinges upon trust, awareness, and knowledge of one another.  These characteristics take time to develop, which means if the Bengals let Boling go, any replacement would need time to develop.

At only 25 years old, Clint Boling should have a long career ahead of him.  This type of consistency would be good for the Bengals left side of the line as, before long, they will likely have to replace star left tackle Andrew Whitworth who’s in the twilight of his career.

Clint Boling was more than just a guard for the Bengals this past season.  Albeit briefly, he did spontaneously fill-in as the team’s right tackle when Andre Smith was out with an injury.  Boling did pretty well in the role and, with some work, could develop this kind of versatility if necessary.

This type of versatility could come in very handy over the next few years.  In 2016, Whitworth, Smith, and right guard Kevin Zeitler will all be free agents and the Bengals could be attempting to replace several players along the offensive line; no easy task.  Boling’s versatility could help out during this process and could even aid Whitworth.  If Whitworth begins to struggle at tackle, moving him to guard could extend his career.  If Boling were able to become a competent right tackle, the Bengals would have options going forward.  It’s a highly unlikely situation, but certainly doesn’t hurt Boling’s case to be re-signed.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, who is waiting in the wings at guard if in fact Clint Boling leaves.  With the Bengals possibly having to replace both tackles and a right guard in the next two years, keeping Boling becomes all the more important.  Currently sitting behind the starters are Mike Pollak, Tanner Hawkinson, and 2014 camp standout Trey Hopkins.

Pollak is a solid and versatile veteran who provides the team with great depth in the middle of the line.  Starting him is entirely possible, but it isn’t a given he’d thrive as a full-time man, especially considering his knee issue.

Tanner Hawkinson was drafted for his versatility.  Like Pollak, he can play just about anywhere along the line, but hasn’t yet proved he deserves to be on the field for any substantial amount of time.

Hopkins looked great last year after coming to the Bengals as an undrafted free agent. After suffering a “fibula injury.”  If the injury was just a broken bone, Hopkins very well may return to full-strength in the coming year.  He could provide the Bengals with depth and possibly compete for a starting spot if something happened to either Boling or Zeitler.  But, like Hawkinson, he’s proved nothing, so it’s really anyone’s guess if he’s capable when actually lining up for games.

This absence of proven linemen means signing Clint Boling should be all the more important to the Bengals.

When the 2015 draft arrives this April, it would be highly preferable for the Bengals to simply focus on drafting linemen to develop over the next year.  It’s inevitable that players will be leaving over the next few years, but keeping one of the league’s best offensive lines of this past year together would go a long way towards helping the Bengals improve next year.  All the more why the Bengals should waste no time in getting Clint Boling re-signed.

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