The Bengals’ Orlando Brown Jr. signing created a crowded situation at right tackle, seeing three-year left tackle starter Jonah Williams begrudgingly change positions. But the former first-round pick is settling in at his new spot.
Williams rescinded his trade request earlier this summer, and Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes he is the clear leader in this tackle matchup. The top Williams competitor coming into camp, Jackson Carman, no longer appears a serious threat to start opposite Brown. Carman may now be battling for a roster spot (subscription required).
Although Carman lost two guard battles in his first two training camps, he fared better as Williams’ left tackle replacement in the playoffs. The former second-round pick replaced Williams against the Ravens in the wild-card round, after the starter suffered a dislocated left knee, and started against the Bills and Chiefs. But Carman may no longer be competing with Williams for the starting RT role; Dehner adds fellow 2021 draftee D’Ante Smith is pushing Carman for the swing role.
Smith has seen time at right tackle recently, moving over from the second-string left tackle role he had held earlier. With Williams in place as the top Brown replacement option, as the Bengals would slide him back to his old spot and move their swingman to right tackle, Dehner notes the RT2 role represents the Bengals’ top tackle backup. Viewed as a project upon coming into the league as a fourth-rounder out of East Carolina, Smith has played just 56 career offensive snaps.
Cincinnati’s right tackle situation will become more complicated when La’el Collins comes off the active/PUP list. Rehabbing ACL and MCL tears, Collins is a candidate for the reserve/PUP list but may also be a cap casualty. Given Collins’ experience, he would stand to generate interest from tackle-needy teams if released. Collins, 30, has not returned to practice. The Bengals were also not exactly thrilled with his pre-injury work.
As for Williams, he can create a nice free agent market with a good contract year. The 2019 first-round pick last played right tackle as a freshman at Alabama. Pro Football Focus graded Williams outside the top 60 at tackle last season, but the veteran blocker attributed his shakier form to not being 100% after a Week 5 kneecap subluxation. The Bengals and Jaguars discussed Williams before the draft, but Jacksonville took Anton Harrison in Round 1. No trade rumblings regarding Williams have come out since.
“He looks like he’s been there for a few years,” Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack said, via Dehner, of Williams. “I’m impressed. He’s a good player. He’s athletic, he’s a smart player and he’s just grooving that power hand and that power foot, and my hat’s off to him. It’s really been a lot more seamless and smooth than I would anticipate for any guy.”
While Williams is going into a contract year, two seasons remain on Carman and Smith’s rookie deals. Collins is under contract through 2024 as well, though the Bengals would take on just $1.7MM in dead money by releasing him before September’s vested veteran guarantee date.