D’Ante Smith

OL Notes: Vikings, Bengals, Pats, Nijman

Garrett Bradbury suffered a back injury last season, and the Vikings center saw his absence extended after he aggravated the malady in a car accident. Bradbury missed the Vikings’ final five regular-season games but returned for the team’s wild-card loss. The Vikings circled back to the former first-round pick in March, re-signing him to a three-year, $15.75MM deal. That contract becomes a pay-as-you go accord after 2023, and Bradbury has run into familiar trouble. The Vikings ruled out the fifth-year center for their Thursday-night game in Philadelphia due to a back injury.

We felt positive about him, and he’s done everything and had no issues whatsoever through a pretty physical training camp for us to feel really good about it,” Kevin O’Connell said (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) of Bradbury’s back issue. “It’s just how this game goes sometimes, and he’s a tough guy, big part of the interior of our offensive line and we’ll hope to get him back as soon as we can.”

Austin Schlottmann, who returned last week after a broken leg ended his 2022 season, is set to start at center against the Eagles. Here is the latest from the O-line landscape:

  • The Bengals completed an unexpected transaction this week, releasing La’el Collins from the reserve/PUP list. The team had given Collins a three-year, $21MM deal to step in at right tackle, which he did for 15 games. But ACL and MCL tears ended his 2022 season in Week 16 and prevented him from starting this season on time. The Bengals have Jonah Williams at right tackle opposite big-ticket UFA addition Orlando Brown Jr., but Jackson Carman — who replaced Williams at LT in the playoffs last season — is not the top backup any longer. D’Ante Smith, a 2021 fourth-round pick, is positioned as Cincinnati’s swing tackle now, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carman has started two playoff games but lost three position battles in his three training camps. Viewed as a project coming out of East Carolina, Smith has played 56 career offensive snaps.
  • Reliability questions surrounded the Patriots‘ offensive line, and the team responded accordingly when setting its 53-man roster. Before Riley Reiff ended up on IR, the Patriots submitted an initial 53 with 11 O-linemen. No other team’s first 53 included that many, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes. Only seven teams kept 10 blockers, though that is where New England’s contingent stands after the Reiff move. The Pats needed to use this depth early. Calvin Anderson, who came off the Pats’ reserve/non-football illness list late in the preseason, started at right tackle in Week 1. Guards Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu were out, moving fourth- and fifth-round rookies — Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi — into the lineup. Onwenu and Strange have each logged two limited practices this week, though both Sow and left tackle Trent Brown suffered concussions in the opener, leaving their Week 2 statuses in doubt.
  • The Commanders, Packers and Vikings each restructured an O-line deal recently. Washington created $6MM in cap space by moving $7.5MM of Charles Leno‘s base salary into a signing bonus and adding three void years, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. Green Bay topped that by adding four void years to Yosh Nijman‘s deal, creating $2.54MM in cap space, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. This proves interesting due to Nijman being on a second-round RFA tender; he is due to be a 2024 free agent. Minnesota added $9.99MM in space by restructuring Brian O’Neill‘s contract, per Yates.

Latest On Bengals’ Right Tackle Situation

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.

Bengals Set To Complete Offensive Line Renovation

The Bengals fell just short of their first ever Super Bowl win in their third appearance in the league’s season finale. As the final seconds ticked away, analysts’ fingers started pointing, with many of them directed at Cincinnati’s lackluster offensive line. 

In their loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Bengals fielded Trey Hopkins at center, Jonah Williams at left tackle, Isaiah Prince at right tackle, Hakeem Adeniji at left guard, and Quinton Spain at right guard. Hopkins and Spain are free agents, no longer on the roster. Adeniji and Prince retain their roster spots, but are no longer projected to start. Williams, perhaps the only bright spot on the line last year, will return as the blindside blocker.

The Bengals worked ferociously in the offseason to address their deficiencies on offensive line. They signed three free agent offensive lineman who are all expected to come in and start right away. Ted Karras comes to Cincinnati after starting experience at center in both New England and Miami. Alex Cappa comes to town after three strong seasons as the Buccaneers’ starter at right guard. La’el Collins is ready to bookend the line with Williams after years of starting experience at right tackle in Dallas.

With Karras at center, Collins and Williams at tackle, and Cappa at right guard, that leaves one position up for grabs. The current favorite to start at left guard is 2021 second-round draft pick Jackson Carman. Carman served mainly as a backup last year for the Bengals earning six starts on the year while playing in every game. The main concern with starting Carman is the fact that he couldn’t supplant any of the lackluster starters from last year. Perhaps with a year of NFL football under his belt now, Carman will blossom into a strong starter at left guard.

The other favorite to man the last spot on the offensive line comes from Cincinnati’s most recent draft class, according to Ben Baby of ESPN. The Bengals used one draft pick this year on an offensive player, bestowing that honor upon the 23-year-old tackle out of North Dakota State, Cordell Volson. Volson served as the Bison’s right tackle in his last college years, but had experience at all four guard and tackle positions during his time in Fargo. That versatility will certainly come in handy as many college tackles tend to move to an interior lineman position if they aren’t projected to dominate as a tackle at the next level. Volson is sure to give Carman a run for his money as the Bengals look to put the finishing touch on their full offensive line renovation.

All the players mentioned above are the favorites to contribute on the offensive line this year, but the following players will attend camp with the hopes of stealing a starting job. At center, Cincinnati also rosters Trey Hill, Lamont Gaillard, and undrafted rookie Ben Brown. At guard, the Bengals’ roster lists D’Ante Smith and undrafted rookie Desmond Noel. The only tackle on the roster that wasn’t already mentioned is undrafted rookie Devin Cochran.

Bengals Activate CB Trae Waynes From IR

Trae Waynes is back. The Bengals activated their starting cornerback from injured reserve today, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (via Twitter). Offensive lineman D’Ante Smith has also been activated from IR (per ESPN’s Ben Baby on Twitter).

The Bengals signed Waynes to a three-year, $42MM deal in March 2020, but the organization has only gotten two games out of their investment. Waynes missed all of 2020 because of a torn pec, and a hamstring injury forced him to miss the start of this season. The 29-year-old managed to get into Week 4 and Week 5, starting both games while collecting five tackles. However, he aggravated his hamstring injury in that latter game, and he hasn’t seen the field since.

Waynes is attached to an $8.4MM base salary this season; that number climbs to $10.4MM in 2022. The Bengals are on the hook for Waynes’ prorated signing bonus ($5MM) next year but could save $11MM by making the seven-year vet a cap casualty. The veteran’s performance down the stretch will likely determine his future with the organization.

Smith is a fourth-round rookie out of East Carolina. He didn’t see the field during the first month of the season, and he was stashed on IR with a knee injury in mid-October.

The Bengals made a handful of additional moves in anticipation of their game against the Broncos tomorrow, promoting linebacker Austin Calitro, wide receiver Trent Taylor, and linebacker Keandre Jones from the practice squad.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/8/21

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Designated for return: G D’Ante Smith, CB Trae Waynes

Denver Broncos

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/16/21

The Week 6 Saturday minor move blitz:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/17/21

The Bengals were busy on Monday, inking all seven of their Day 3 picks to their rookie deals. We’ll keep track of all of today’s draft pick signings below:

Cincinnati Bengals

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders