Insiders are split on how the Bengals will attack 2021 free agency

Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin speaks to the media during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.Bengals Nfl Combine 125
Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin speaks to the media during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.Bengals Nfl Combine 125 /

The Cincinnati Bengals have no choice but to make big moves on the free-agent market this offseason. That fact is no secret. Just how they’ll go about spending their roughly $35M in cap space, however, is a topic that is currently being hotly debated.

The orange and black faithful haven’t hidden their feelings on their preferred course of action. The fan base is resoundingly in favor of signing a big fish free-agent offensive lineman, such as Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff. Not so fast though, according to Bengals legend Dave Lapham.

During a conversation on the Bengals Booth Podcast, the lineman turned analyst had this to say about where Cincinnati stands at the guard position,

"“I think they’ve got plenty of options inside… There’s no question about it. They’ve got veteran players that have played multiple positions and definitely can play guard.”"

Not exactly the kind of tone you want to hear from an insider covering a team that just subjected its star cornerstone to loads of pressure, and ultimately, a surgical knife.

Make no mistake about it, the Bengals definitely have plenty of guys capable of playing along the interior. Xavier Su’a-Filo, Michael Jordan, B.J. Finney, and Billy Price all come to mind. They’ve even experimented kicking Fred Johnson inside. None of the players on the list have exactly proven they’re capable of keeping Joe Burrow up-right on a reconstructed knee, however.

But Lapham has a good pulse on the team, although some argue his insight has become more inaccurate since Zac Taylor took over at the helm for Marvin Lewis. At the very least, on-lookers have to admit he’s spot on in terms of historical precedence the Bengals have set. They’ve never seemed to value the guard position all that much.

Look no further for proof than the Kevin Zeitler situation from a few years ago. The former first-round pick was among the best at his position and the front office didn’t even bother to extend an offer to him once his rookie contract was up. Would they really be willing to back the brinks truck up for a guard now?

If there’s a silver-lining from Lapham’s take on the upcoming free agency period, it’s that he does seem to think the team would cough up the money required to upgrade the right tackle position if the opportunity presented itself. The only problem is, the tackle class set to hit the open market isn’t as inspiring as you would hope.

Geoff Hobson appears to be tempering expectations as well

Lapham isn’t alone in his evaluation of the roster. Bengals Senior Writer Geoff Hobson looks like he agrees with his colleague on multiple fronts. He had this to say in response to a fan asking how to most quickly fix the team,

"“I hear you on the offensive line, but I just don’t know how that takes priority away from the defense…it strikes me they have some young, talented tackles (Jonah Williams, Fred Johnson, Hakeem Adeniji) that they can work with in the future and a pair of veteran guards in Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain (a free agent they might like to sign) that gives them some physicality in the middle.”"

Much like Lapham, Hobson’s words do little to inspire confidence that Cincinnati will make the drastic changes so many believe are needed in the offensive trenches.

Others think the Bengals will open their pockets up for offensive line help

While Lapham and Hobson seem to suggest Cincinnati will lean on the guys they already have in addition to prospects added via the draft, The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. is reporting differently. In his own words via Twitter, “The Bengals know they need to do everything in their power to protect Joe Burrow this offseason.”

Dehner even goes so far as to say Duke Tobin and co. look “poised” to invest in their offensive line. The kind of semantics he’s using would suggest that offering a big payday to one or more premier free agent offensive linemen is certainly not off the table.

Further supporting Dehner’s evaluation is his accuracy from last year’s offseason festivities. Remember, the franchise that calls Paul Brown Stadium home was never the kind of organization to pour money into free agency. However, Dehner predicted they would buck that trend, and was spot on.

Regardless of which route the Bengals take on the open market this year, it’s gearing up to be an eventful ride until next season begins. Will the front office oblige to the demands of WhoDey Nation or stick to their historical approach?

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