Cincinnati Bengals Starting Center Options through free agency
The best free-agent center is Jason Kelce and it wouldn’t be surprising if he winded up back in Philadelphia where he’s spent the entirety of his 11-year career. He signed a one-year deal this past offseason to remain in the City of Brotherly Love and could opt to do the same thing again this offseason.
Kelce is 34 years old so a long-term contract isn’t the answer but signing him to a two or three-year deal would give the Bengals one of the best starting centers there is for the rest of Joe Burrow’s rookie deal.
Ben Jones is proof that good centers can be found in the later rounds of the draft. The former fourth-round pick out of Georgia who initially played for the Texans and has spent the past six years with the Titans. He’s a durable player, having missed just one start over the last eight years.
Yet another late-round pick who has rose to stardom at center, Ryan Jensen has thrived with the Buccaneers and is slated to hit free agency this spring. With the Buccaneers’ ability to re-sign everyone, who knows if Jensen is a realistic option for Cincinnati but if he wants to get paid like a premier starting center, he’d have a better shot at doing so in free agency than sticking with Tampa. He’ll turn 31 in May, however, so that could prevent a massive deal from happening.
Matt Paradis has been a durable option at center for the Panthers during his time in Carolina, missing just three games with all of those happening this year. He’s still a great talent at the position though but with the injuries rearing their ugly head and his age (32), there’s reason to believe Cincinnati could be a realistic landing spot for Paradis.
Leading up to the trade deadline, Pro Football Focus wanted to see the Bengals make a trade for Ted Karras of the Patriots. Karras has spent time both at center and at guard, which would bode well for Cincinnati considering their need for both a center and a right guard moving forward (potentially left guard too if Quinton Spain isn’t re-signed).
The Patriots spent a lot of money in free agency last offseason so they’ll do what they can to retain Karras. He’ll only be 29 years old this spring, making him a candidate for a four or five-year deal, which the Bengals can afford.
These are some options for Cincy at center next year and some aren’t the most realistic, but they’d all be upgrades (maybe not right off the bat). If the Bengals want to be a serious contender moving forward, they need to invest in their offensive line and center is a huge piece of the o-line.