Another offseason for the Cincinnati Bengals has arrived and once again, the offensive line is the biggest need for this team.
The same was said last year but give the front office credit -- they went out and signed three free agents for their offensive line and managed to find a starting left guard in the fourth round of the draft.
Yet, in the waning minutes of the AFC Championship Game, the protection for Joe Burrow couldn't hold up and the offense couldn't move down the field and score the game-winning points.
Now look, the poor performance from the offensive line in the AFC title game was due to injuries to both tackle spots and the right guard position as well. Even with that said, Sam Monson of PFF has a good point about the Bengals' offensive tackle position, noting that Jonah Williams was not good in 2022.
"Cincinnati’s offensive line fell apart because of injuries late in the season but lost in all that was how poorly former first-round draft pick Jonah Williams played all season at left tackle. Williams tied for the most sacks surrendered by any tackle (12) in the regular season and earned just a 49.9 run-blocking grade. "- Sam Monson
Bengals have to find stability at offensive tackle
At this point, the Bengals can't stick with Williams at left tackle. They picked up his fifth-year option last year so he's going to be on the roster unless a team is interested in trading for him, which seems unlikely considering he led the league in sacks allowed.
As for the other side of the o-line, La'el Collins was one of the three acquired offensive linemen and he did not live up to the hype he brought to Cincinnati with him. Collins finished the season with a 44.2 pass-blocking grade from PFF and was ranked 52nd out of 57 qualifying right tackles.
Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic noted that Collins missing practice on Wednesdays doesn't typically sit well with the Bengals staff and also noted that his age and injury history could make him a cap casualty. The Bengals could save roughly $6 million if Collins is released before June 1 and can save roughly $7 million if they release him after June, per Spotrac.
The fact of the matter is that the Bengals put a lot of work into their offensive line and by season's end, it was still a problem. Yes, the injuries didn't help but even when healthy, the tackles weren't playing well and that can't happen when you have a quarterback as good as Joe Burrow. You have to protect him or he won't be a franchise quarterback for long.
Unfortunately there aren't a lot of great free agent options at the tackle spot this offseason. Mike McGlinchey headlines the position followed by Orlando Brown Jr. of the Chiefs and if Brown is the second-best option, you know things aren't great there.
McGlinchey is projected to earn a four-year contract worth $43 million with an annual salary of $10.7 million. That's probably not a deal the Bengals will be able to afford.
They could look for a more affordable option but then you're risking that player being about the same or even worse than Jonah Williams and La'el Collins.
The draft isn't much better but that might be the route the Bengals need to take. Landing someone like Anton Harrison or Broderick Jones could be possible but those guys might need time to adjust.
It's also possible that the team gives Jackson Carman a chance at left tackle. He had a 67.1 pass-blocking grade from PFF and did show some promise during the playoffs. Perhaps he's Williams' replacement on the left side of the line.
One thing is for sure though, the Bengals have to figure out what they want to do at both tackle spots. It's okay to have a few plans but they need to be smart about who they bring in so that they can still pay Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Logan Wilson, and keep any pending free agents they feel the need to keep.
This is going to be a difficult offseason for the Cincinnati Bengals but they can't let the offensive tackle position go unaddressed.