How would you rank the team needs this offseason, if you were to based them off positions? Would it be fair to say that the team's greatest need would be to rebuild the safety position? What about quarterback, provided Carson Palmer and the Bengals front office remain stubborn towards their own goals? And that's not to mention that one running back is signed through 2011. But first things, first. Guards.
Here's where we stand.
Bobbie Williams is the only guard signed for the 2011 season. Nate Livings is a restricted free agent that the team tendered, but will likely face unrestricted free agency once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed (more on Livings in a moment). Evan Mathis, a guard that's often graded higher than Livings, will be an unrestricted free agent. Otis Hudson, last year's fifth round draft pick that's in "project status", is signed under a "Futures" contract while Jason Shirley, a defensive tackle converted into a guard two years ago, will enter the final year under contract.
The Bengals do not have a single guard signed after next season.
Bobbie Williams - According to Pro Football Focus' grading scale, the starting right guard graded out as the league's best guard in pass protection, while only allowed a quarterback pressure once every 110 drop backs. Williams, who will be turning 35 this September, is entering the final year under contract.
Nate Livings - A decent run blocker, Livings allowed allowed a team-high 28 quarterback pressures. With only five accrued seasons, the Bengals tendered the restricted free agent last week in the single effort -- we hope -- of keeping some depth on the offensive line. On the other hand, over a week ago, Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander said that he "feels Nate Livings has played well enough to remain the incumbent left guard." In other news, Palmer points to that quote and says, "see?!"
Evan Mathis - The backup guard participated in 114 snaps in 2010, with 54 coming during pass protection. He allowed one quarterback pressure and no sacks. In 2009, Mathis rated as one of the best offensive linemen on the team, even better than Andrew Whitworth if you factor in Whitworth's propensity to commit penalties in 2009 (13). Regardless, Mathis ranked as the third best pass blocker and run blocker that year. He's the Anthony Collins of Bengals guards (good, but never given an opportunity). Mathis will be an unrestricted free agent.
Jason Shirley - In an effort to keep him on the team, Marvin Lewis convinced Shirley to swap from a defensive tackle to an offensive guard in 2009. He remained on the practice squad throughout the 2009 season and suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon last April, shutting down his 2010 season early.
Otis Hudson - Literally a handful of people had even heard of Otis Hudson when the Bengals drafted him in the fifth round. Rather than being an effective offensive lineman, Alexander wanted to groom him, who figured to be the eventual replacement for Bobbie Williams. Hudson spent the entire season on the practice squad and is now signed to the offseason roster.