The Bengals’ offensive line was a major question mark going into the 2020 season, and the fear was that poor blocking would jeopardize the health of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. And then that fear became reality, as Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Week 11 and the silver lining of another lost season in Cincinnati was quickly tarnished. So, a year after Cincinnati committed significant free agent dollars to the defensive side of the ball while relying on its existing offensive linemen to develop, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic says the team appears poised to reverse a long-standing trend and to spend big on the O-line.
Jonah Williams will remain the starting left tackle, but the other four spots are up for grabs. There is some hope that the return of O-line coach Frank Pollack will help left guard Michael Jordan, but after Jordan’s poor performance in 2020, it would not be at all surprising to see the Bengals pursue an upgrade (though the team has been historically reluctant to make major investments at guard).
The ACL injury that center Trey Hopkins sustained in the team’s regular season finale could mean that former first-rounder Billy Price will get one more chance to prove himself as a starting pivot, but again, after seeing Burrow writhing on the ground in pain, Cincy could seek reinforcements on the open market.
If the team does make a major free agent splash, it would likely come at right tackle, where Taylor Moton may be available. The Panthers might put the franchise tag on Moton, but if that doesn’t happen, expect the Bengals to be an active bidder for his services. Dehner also suggests that, if the team finally opens up its wallet for a guard, Joe Thuney would appear to be a perfect fit.
Whether it’s through free agency, the draft, or some combination thereof, Cincinnati has to do something. The club does want to re-sign Quinton Spain, who helped provide some stability at guard after he signed with the Bengals in October, and right tackle Bobby Hart is expected to be released, which will open up $6MM in cap space and a spot for a quality free agent. B.J. Finney, who came over from Seattle in the Carlos Dunlap trade, is also unlikely to return.
There is plenty of young skill position talent in the Queen City. With a couple of additions to the O-line, the Bengals’ offense could well be a serious threat in 2021 and beyond.