May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Whitworth has been a leader within the Cincinnati Bengals organization and for its offensive line since they signed him to a four-year extension in 2008. Last season, he looked excellent, but maybe just a step behind his 2012 Pro Bowl performance. The Associated Press deemed him as a Second-Team All-Pro player last year, and I am one of the Bengals fans who thought he was snubbed in 2014 from the Pro Bowl.
Whitworth has said, he wants to be a part of this organization until the end of his career, but with two offensive linemen selected in this year’s draft, will he have to have another Pro Bowl year to ensure that future?
Whitworth didn’t allow a sack last season and played as well as his 2012 season, in my opinion. His age has been the concern, but he has lead with consistency and has helped the younger guys learn while under his tutelage. This could lead to a great transition into retirement or a coaching career in the NFL if he chooses. Coley Harvey of ESPN.com even wrote how he is a leader and a mentor for the young lineman and making adjustments when needed on the line.
You could call it a mistake or a necessary challenge for Whitworth when the Bengals chose to find his replacement from the draft. The Bengals drafted two potential guys to bring onto the offensive line, but it is hard to replace the physical and emotional leadership that Whitworth brings to this offense.
I have confidence that Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher will be solid options on the line, especially once Ogbuehi is healthy, but to suggest that they will be able to replace the void left by their current left tackle is to place nearly insurmountable expectations on each of these rookie linemen. I even dare to go as far as saying that Andre Smith would be my choice to let walk in order to keep Whitworth another year.
One thing is very clear, Andrew Whitworth has earned his spot and the opportunity to continue leading on the offensive line beyond 2015; it will now be up to him to earn that spot in 2016. It will take consistency and continued leadership from him, but if he can continue playing at the level he did last year, he should earn a contract to continue playing for another couple of years regardless of the role going forward. Whitworth is one of the best options for this team in 2015 and if he can continue to be one of the best linemen in the NFL, he will have a spot with the Bengals for as long as he wants.