Bengals offseason analysis based on offensive line
The biggest task for the Bengals in the 2021 offseason is to upgrade their offensive line. The only starters that seem secure for Cincinnati on the OL in 2021 are center Trey Hopkins and Jonah Williams whose 2021 position is to be determined. Drafted as a tackle in 2019, Williams could move inside in 2021.
What position Williams plays in 2021 will be determined by who the Bengals sign in free agency. The inability for the Bengals to provide a consistently clean pocket for franchise quarterback Joe Burrow ended his season in the 11th game of 2020 with a torn ACL. Cincinnati has to protect Burrow better in 2020.
Burrow was on pace for a record-setting rookie season before suffering the season-ending injury. The Bengals are expected to sign one or two OL in free agency and select another lineman in the first or second round of the NFL Draft. This will be a key offseason for Cincinnati identifying talent and correctly adding to the roster.
In their “Cincinnati Bengals 2021 free agency and NFL Draft preview.” Pro Football Focus puts the onus on the OL to determine the success of how the offseason is analyzed. Williams has not proven the ability to stay healthy after missing his entire rookie season in 2019 and suffering a season-ending injury week 13 in 2020.
"“Any analysis about Cincinnati’s offseason will start and end with what they do along the offensive line. They ended the year ranked ahead of only the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers in PFF’s end-of-season offensive line rankings.Ultimately, Burrow wasn’t able to escape from the collapsing pockets in his rookie season unscathed. Jonah Williams was potentially the Bengals’ best offensive lineman in his first season of action after sitting out his entire 2019 rookie season due to injury.Once again, his season ended prematurely this past year after a Week 13 knee injury. Williams and center Trey Hopkins — who is working his way back from a Week 17 torn ACL — are the only two offensive linemen who should have secure spots heading into next year."
The two primary names being mentioned during the offseason are New England Patriots free-agent guard Joe Thuney who is a Southwest Ohio native and Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. Thuney would help stabilize the OL and give the Bengals much-needed experience to lead what will mostly be a young unit.
The 2021 NFL Draft is deep at OT. If the Sewell is off the board when the Bengals pick fifth or they decided to select a playmaker for Burrow, Cincinnati will still be well-positioned to select an OT in the second-round. Even if Cincinnati signs an OT in free agency expect them to select take one in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.