Trey Hopkins’ Emergence Would Give Bengals Options


Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard Trey Hopkins (73) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have built quite the reputation for finding talent where few others can.  In the chaos that follows each draft, they’ve been successful in identifying and signing undrafted college free agents who eventually prove to be effective NFL players. In 2012, they found Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur and in 2013 Cincinnati acquired Jayson DiManche.

This trend continued in 2014 when the Bengals signed Ryan Hewitt, yet the fullback extraordinaire wasn’t the only player who looked like he’d make the team.  Prior to Hewitt’s emergence, guard Trey Hopkins was headlining the team’s 2014 UDFA class.  He performed so well that it looked like he was going to earn a roster spot.

Unfortunately Hopkins broke his lower leg and was placed on season-ending I.R.  Despite the disappointing end to his rookie season, Hopkins could emerge from 2015’s training camp with a roster spot according to editor Geoff Hobson.

"“For the last two offensive line spots (out of nine), the leaders in the clubhouse are guard Trey Hopkins and guard-center T.J. Johnson. Johnson has a good shot to stay because they need a backup center and Hopkins was headed to a roster spot in his rookie season last year before breaking a leg in the preseason.”"

Trey Hopkins fulfilling his promise would be great for the Bengals both in the coming season and going forward.

The Bengals invested heavily in their offensive line this offseason.  They began this process by re-signing left guard Clint Boling to a five-year/$26 million deal.  Cincinnati then re-signed veteran tackle Eric Winston after he filled-in adequately for the injured Andre Smith last year.  They exercised Kevin Zeitler‘s fifth-year option after that and then drafted offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher with their first two selections in this year’s draft.  These moves have secured the future of the team’s offensive tackles and the interior of the line at least in the near future. But what happens after 2015?

The Bengals will see Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith hit free agency while Kevin Zeitler will be entering the final year of his rookie deal.  With all the free agents coming in 2016, will the Bengals be able to retain either Whitworth or Smith?  Will they be able to afford Zeitler following that?

As suggested in a recent Stripe Hype piece, the team could move Whitworth to guard, move on from Smith, and move Boling to center while sliding Ogbuehi and Fisher into the tackle positions.  But what if Hopkins emerges?  He could offer the team a younger, cheaper option at guard, which would allow the Bengals to use the money saved to re-sign another impending free agent.  He would also allow the team to establish a long-term, consistent offensive line rather than employing a veteran who’s on the downside of his career (if Whitworth were moved to guard following this year).

Trey Hopkins fulfilling the promise he offered in 2014 would offer the Bengals several benefits.  His emergence would give the Bengals greater depth at guard in the coming season, especially considering Ogbuehi may start the season on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a torn ACL.  And in the future, Hopkins could offer the team a young and relatively cheap option at guard if the team is unable to sign Zeitler to a long-term deal; it will give them more options when addressing the litany of free agents that will present themselves over the next couple of years.  Hopkins could be Cincinnati’s next UDFA gem, and his emergence would offer the Bengals important flexibility going forward.

Next: Have Bengals Found Another UDFA Gem in 2015?