The Bengals felt the consequences of a rough free agency period in 2016, which saw the departure of stars Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Reggie Nelson. This year, the offensive line must be the focal point of their signing strategy.
In NFL free agency, if you’re not winning, you’re losing. Every year, teams all around the league deal with important players leaving in the offseason. The Bengals could have multiple key players along their offensive line on their way out in 2017, so to replace them, some new faces will be necessary.
The Offensive Line
The first step in solving any issue is admitting you have a problem. The Bengals were terrible at protecting Andy Dalton in 2017, allowing 41 sacks over the course of the season, which was among the most in the league. If Cincinnati wants to make it back to the playoffs next year, their blocking issues must be addressed.
The 2015 Rookies
More from Stripe Hype
- How to watch the Cincinnati Bengals in 2022
- Denzel Ward wants to flex on Bengals WRs in 2022
- Scouting the enemy: Bengals preseason opener chat with Raising Zona
- Bengals should place these 3 players on the trade block
- 3 advantages the Bengals have over the Steelers in 2022
Second-year tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher both had abysmal seasons. The Bengals tried to give them game action whenever possible, but neither were serviceable in their time on the right side of the line. Both made way for opposing defensive ends in pass rush and eventually for Eric Winston on the line, who took over for the under-performing Ogbuehi on multiple occasions throughout the season.
The state of the line could actually get worse in the offseason, as the contracts of both right guard Kevin Zeitler and left tackle Andrew Whitworth are set to expire. Both could fetch big money in free agency, and Cincinnati will likely set a realistic goal at keeping only one of the pair. Veteran tackle Eric Winston’s one year deal is also set to expire, but, at 33 years old, the Bengals may sacrifice his performance for youth.
Solutions: G Larry Warford and T Riley Reiff
Luckily, there are options available to fill the Bengals’ holes at both tackle and guard. The best options, oddly enough, could both be from the same team—the Detroit Lions. Like the Bengals, the Lions will also see their starting guard and tackle enter the offseason as unrestricted free agents. Both should be prime targets for Cincinnati.
‘s rookie deal with the Lions will be expiring in March. He’s been extremely good in pass protection through his first four years in the pros, which would be of obvious appeal to the Bengals. His skill and youth will demand a high price in free agency, but as an important piece of Detroit’s line, his re-signing will be a top priority for the Lions.
Riley Reiff should be a player of real interest to the Bengals. He’s proven in Detroit he can play at both left and right tackle. That’s versatility the Bengals will need for the next few years while determining the starting rotation. At age 28, Reiff will be hitting his prime as he begins his stint with his next team.
The knock on Riley Reiff is his consistency. If he were to leave Detroit this offseason, it would likely be because of his unpredictable quality of play. Ranked just about league average as a tackle by Pro-Football Focus, there’s no doubt he could be of major value to the Bengals.
The Bottom Line
If Ogbuehi and Fisher both continue to disappoint, Reiff may be the future of right tackle for the Bengals. If Whitworth leaves after this season, Reiff would provide a solid replacement to protect Dalton’s blindside. Either way, Reiff might be the perfect fit for a Bengals pass-protecting corps that’s currently in limbo.