Nov 9, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Michael Oher (72) blocks Baltimore Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil (58) in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens won 21-7. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
11 months ago next week, former first round pick Michael Oher signed a four-year, $20 million contract to play for the Tennessee Titans. The Titans released Oher Thursday.
Oher’s release was a combination of three factors. The first being that he underperformed. He was rated the 75th offensive tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus last season.
The second factor was what he was going to make. According to his contract details on Rotoworld, Oher had no guaranteed money in 2015. The salary that he was going to make would have been roughly $4 million, $3.35 million of that would have been guaranteed if Oher remained on the Titans’ roster by February 6th.
Thirdly, Oher missed the final five games of the 2014 season with a toe injury that placed him on Injured Reserve. By releasing Oher, the Titans saved roughly $4 million and cleared a roster spot.
So why would the Cincinnati Bengals want Michael Oher? The better question is why wouldn’t the Bengals at least consider signing him?
The Bengals Need More Depth Along the Offensive Line
With Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith in the final years of their contracts, the Bengals may be getting ready to completely re-tool the offensive line. The team has expressed interest in bringing offensive tackle Eric Winston back, but like Whitworth, he is in his 30s and the twilight of his career.
Assuming that Cincinnati does bring back Winston, the team is still looking for a fourth offensive tackle. After a rough season from Marshall Newhouse, this move could bode well for the offense that coordinator Hue Jackson has put in place. Oher could thrive in a Power Run offense similar to what he played within while employed by Baltimore.
This move could also lengthen Andrew Whitworth’s career. During the 2013 season, Cincinnati had to move Whitworth to guard because of an injury-plagued offensive line. This actually provided a much-needed boost to the line’s interior when run blocking. Often times offensive tackles will move to guard later in their careers to prolong it. Signing Oher could do just that.
Marvin Lewis Projects
It is no secret that Marvin Lewis has a knack for taking players that are past their prime, busts, or problematic and giving them the second, third, and sometimes a fourth chance to succeed in the NFL, i.e. Chris Henry, Odell Thurman, Adam Jones, Tank Johnson, and Terence Newman.
At this point, it would not be a stretch to consider Michael Oher an NFL bust. His second contract is evidence that the NFL sees him as just that considering it is not what one would expect from a former first round selection. Furthermore, he only made it through one year of this second contract due to poor performance. The Michael Oher Project would be right up Lewis’ alley.
Risk versus Reward
What exactly is the risk in signing Michael Oher? There are not many teams that are going to offer him any kind of substantial contract. The most realistic possibility would be somewhere in the realm of 1-2 years and between $1-3 million/year, though the $3 million number may be stretching it. Additionally, any new contract could stipulate that the money would only be guaranteed if Oher were to make the 53-man roster.
The Reward? You could pick up a solid rotational lineman, Oher could help extend Whitworth’s career by a season or two, he fits the run blocking system, and he adds depth behind a typically injury-ridden Cincinnati offensive line.
It seems like a quick, cheap fix to the offensive line problems that have plagued the Bengals in the past. And this fix comes without a ton of risk for Cincinnati, an especially appealing quality to a front office that likes to bring in struggling players.
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