The Cincinnati Bengals are in desperate need of help along the offensive line and Zach Fulton could help along the interior.
The Cincinnati Bengals have made it abundantly clear that they believe in quarterback Andy Dalton to be their guy going forward. If Dalton and even second year running back Joe Mixon are going to perform, they will need serious help along the offensive line. The Bengals certainly have the money to make a couple moves in free agency this year.
Since letting offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler leave for free agency after the 2015 season, the Bengals offense has had its struggles keeping the pocket clean for Dalton. In the last two seasons, Dalton has been sacked a total of 80 times due to a lack of offensive line productivity. in 2017, Dalton was the sixth most sacked quarterback in the league.
The offensive line will need some immediate attention for Dalton to lead his team back to the playoffs in 2018. Outside of Clint Boling, the rest of the offensive line is expendable. The Bengals have tried to draft their own guys with guards Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond but the two guards have yet to develop into contributing factors yet.
Even though the Bengals aren’t normally big spenders in free agency as they like to bring in their own guys, they may have to pick up at least one offensive lineman in March to make an immediate impact. Someone that would bring immediate impact is offensive guard Zach Fulton from the Kansas City Chiefs. Fulton has been a backup for the Chiefs offensive line since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft but has proven to be extremely versatile.
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Fulton has stepped in for both guard positions and center during his time in Kansas City. In 2016 he filled in for injured left guard Parker Ehinger. This past season he stepped in for both guard positions but he permanently took over the center position when Chiefs center Mitch Morse left with a season-ending injury. When drafted, Fulton had no experience at center but started taking snaps in training camp under center in 2015.
The Chiefs will likely not be able to retain Fulton due to the high need around the league for a versatile offensive lineman. They also have already spent a great deal on their line and have too many holes elsewhere on the roster that they cannot afford to spend another big deal along the line. If the Bengals can bring Fulton in, they would be saving money by not targeting the biggest names on the market while also getting an extremely beneficial signing.
Fulton’s strength and brute power give him the ability to command the center of the line and move defenders for the running game as well. Mixon struggled to find any holes in the Bengals line in 2017 and defenders were consistently able to attack him in the backfield. Fulton would be a great first step to improving the line for both pass and run protection.
Fulton will still command an expensive contract giving his ability to play anywhere along the interior line but not the elite money that players like Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell. If the Bengals can grab one or two of these cheaper but immediate impact players for the offensive line and then draft one or two as well, they will see an immediate increase in production for the entire offense.