The Bengals will have eight draft picks later this month during the NFL Draft, when the NFL world will finally have something to talk besides injunctions, mediations, revenue sharing, conjecture and detailed analysis of prospects from experts that often forget to refer to actual game film. Since we become so obsessed with whom the Bengals will draft in the first round, let's briefly examine the team's roster and how positions could be addressed in the draft.
The first question, besides the obvious first round selection and the "Quarterback Question" is, how many offensive linemen will the Bengals draft?
One can't have too many offensive tackles on the roster; considering we're already halfway to having the best offensive tackle duo in the NFL -- minus the second offensive tackle. That's been the issue though, hasn't it? Andre Smith is Andre Smith, often injured with a suspect work ethic that put him in the Marvin Lewis dog house after a procedure in February last year that limited training camp. Is the team willing to write Smith off? If the Bengals elect not to pick up a two-year extension option in Smith's contract, the Bengals are only required to pay Smith through 2012 at $26 million. It's the "cut your losses", argument.
Anthony Collins is stabilizing enough that he could start and manage the right tackle position if Smith isn't ready or able to produce. With one year left on his contract, Collins could be an unrestricted free agent after having four seasons accrued in the NFL once the 2011 season concludes. Beyond that, the Bengals have to make a decision on the depth chart. Do they bring Dennis Roland back, rated as the team's worst pass blocker in 2010 by Pro Football Focus. Do the Bengals see something in Andrew Mitchell, signed through 2011?
Even if they didn't plan for the future, the Bengals have to think about drafting an offensive tackle, at least in the later rounds, to improve their overall depth. If the team planned for the future, they could look beyond Andre Smith to find someone that's a little more stable and productive. Wouldn't that make sense? Money suggests no for two reason. The first being, well, money in the whole Mike Brown paying players for nothing dynamic and the second being that injuries are a reasonable excuse for giving him another shot.
Then there's guard. The Bengals tendered Nate Livings before the owner's lockout, while Bobbie Williams and Jason Shirley are entering the final year under contract. Evan Mathis is a free agent. The Bengals have shown interest with Randall Hunt, held a private workout with Baylor guard Danny Watkins and hosted Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey.
Kyle Cook will be a restricted free agent once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed. Reggie Stephens, the Bengals seventh round selection in 2010 that replaced Jonathan Luigs (who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft), is the only center signed next season. Will the Bengals want to draft a center in three straight drafts, provided they fail to bring Cook back (which we don't expect)?
At minimum, the Bengals could draft two offensive linemen; a guard and a tackle. We also wouldn't be surprised if the team drafted a third that could transition into a versatile linemen that plays guard and tackle.