So Marvin Lewis finally admitted what we've known for months now. The Bengals have to improve their offensive line. If not in free agency, then in the draft. Since the offensive tackles available were either worthy of competing against Scott Kooistra (not a knock against Scotty), or quietly aging grandfathers in the camps of sunset Pro Bowl careers, there really weren't any prized tackles worth entertaining. George Foster for a New York Minute, or an Ohio week, perhaps. A stretch at best. Available guards were so-so. Available centers were interesting, but cost, loyalty and the damned Ravens, knocked the Bengals out of the league.
"No doubt we have to develop depth on the offensive line, whether that guy emerges as a starter or however it comes down between now and the draft," said Lewis.
Now, we're siphoning, at best, backup talent in free agency, which, at best, forces the team to base a scenario that possibly promotes weakening other positions. For instance, if you move Andrew Whitworth to left tackle, you need a left guard. Who the hell is going to snap the ball? All things considered, it's fairly obvious that the Bengals will draft at least two linemen in the 2009 NFL Draft, if not three. Three? Yes, possibly three. Maybe even four. My thinking is that the Bengals will address offensive tackle and center (um, duh). Maybe not for the purposes of starting immediately, but we're going to see other players reach contract seasons fairly quickly. Bobbie Williams, Kyle Cook, Nate Livings and Kooistra will be free agents after 2009; among other talent that will struggle to manufacture a spot on the roster during this season's training camp.
Editor's note: This is, by far, the most Scott Kooistra references in one post since Cincy Jungle came online in March 2006.
In fact, the only players signed in 2010 are Digger Bujnoch (Center/Guard), Anthony Collins (Tackle), Levi Jones (Tackle), Dan Santucci (Center), Andrew Whitworth (Guard/Tackle). And Levi Jones might not be a Bengal beyond September. This September.
That's it. Five. Four if you take out Jones.
Not only is drafting offensive linemen a forgone conclusion, but drafting several, likely more than two, is something you can bank on. I believe the team will draft three, and it wouldn't be surprising if they went with a fourth. You also have to consider that the Bengals will weigh heavily into the undrafted free agent market (rookies that aren't drafted), but linemen are one of the most prized positions in football. Rarely are good ones found post-draft.
I'm not saying that the team has to use half their draft on offensive linemen. I'd be strung up alive if I said such things, even though my man-crush with big uglies has been well-documented more than enough. However, along with the talent we have now and the free agents hitting the market after this season, one has to figure that the team will stock-up on linemen from this draft and probably the 2010 draft. We did it with the secondary, and it developed as well as one could have hoped. Overall depth is still a problem, but we have -- arguably -- more talent in the secondary than we do any unit on the team. Aside from Chris' struggles to separate a name with two faces, one of which shouts in defiance for Britney Spears, we've drafted most of that talent. Might be a good plan to do that with our offensive line, who took the brunt of the blame for having the league's worst offense. Now is as good as any to recommit yourself to the team's line depth.