Five under-the-radar 2021 free agents the Bengals should target
Under-the-radar Bengals FA targets: OL Pat Elflein
Even if Cincinnati lands a top-tier offensive lineman like Thuney, they still would only have two guys you could comfortably pencil in as opening day starters: Thuney and Jonah Williams. Obviously, Trey Hopkins is a quality option and reports indicate he’ll be ready for training camp, but it’s unwise to rely on a player who tore his ACL in the season finale.
The Bengals will need to sign additional linemen in order to buy some breathing room in the draft. As aptly pointed out by Pro Football Network writer AJ Schulte on the Bengals Booth Podcast, Pat Elflein is a guy that makes a ton of sense in Cincinnati.
Elflein began his NFL career with the Vikings and started out strong playing center. As the years went on, however, injuries derailed him. Minnesota attempted to get him back to his previous form by shifting him to both right and left guard, to no avail. He was cut last season and picked up by the Jets.
At the time, Frank Pollack, who is now the Bengals’ offensive line coach, was leading the trenches in New York. Under Pollack’s watch, Elflein played much better at guard, something Schulte pointed out on BBP,
"“He [Elflein] would really fit in with Frank Pollack’s scheme. He’s cheap… he was really good with the Jets.”"
Considering he has a good track record with Pollack, experience at all three interior positions, would come on a cheap contract, and is still just 26-years-old, this seems like a no-brainer. Best-case scenario, Elflein can serve as an upgraded starter.
Worst-case, he can fill in for Hopkins until he’s fully healthy and serves as injury insurance/depth. In other words, he would fill the role of B.J. Finney, allowing the Bengals to cut him and save some money against the cap.