As Paul Dehner went through each Bengals free agent, saying which ones they should re-sign and which ones they should let walk, he was saying the same thing we've said before -- until he said Bobbie Williams should be one of the players that shouldn't be re-signed.
RG Bobbie Williams has been a fixture on the offensive line for the Bengals with 120 starts in Cincinnati. But he's 35 and his age has started to show. He also fractured his ankle and missed the final three games. If the draft and free agency don't offer a guard the team likes the Bengals may offer Williams a one-year deal, but they'd prefer to go younger. Verdict: Go.
I personally think that Dehner couldn't be more wrong. Here's why:When you don't count the team's unrestricted free agents, the Bengals have the following guards on the roster: Clint Boling and Otis Hudson. The Bengals are predicted to select a guard at some point in the upcoming draft, so let's say that Boling, Hudson and Drafted Player X are on the roster.
Boling may improve between his rookie and sophomore seasons, earning a spot as a starter, but his grade of -6.8 on Pro Football Focus in his 177 snaps (-1.7 pass blocking, -3.9 run blocking) would likely suggest otherwise. Without re-signing Williams, you leave the Bengals in a position starting a rookie along with Boling or Hudson, who literally has no experience whatsoever.
Now, if the Bengals sign a guy like Carl Nicks or Ben Grubbs in free agency, I can understand the Bengals not re-signing Williams. That way, Nicks/Grubbs could start alongside a rookie, and that would probably be okay. However, if they don't land Nicks or Grubbs, they need Williams back and badly.
Despite his age, Williams was by far the team's best guard in 2011. He played from Week 4 when he came back from suspension to Week 14, when he broke his ankle against the Texans. In that time period, Williams took 575 snaps, had a 1.8 run blocking score (the highest of any guard on the team) and a 0.9 pass blocking score (also the highest of any guard on the team) for an overall grade of 1.9 (again, the highest). He may be older than the other guys but there's no question that he's also better.
The Bengals would be foolish to sigh him to a multi-year deal but they'd also be foolish to let him walk away, putting them in a position where they would have to land a guard that everybody is going to be going after in free agency or starting two players will a combined little to no experience.
Guard is a big area of need, with or without Bobbie Williams on the team. However, with Williams between Kyle Cook and Andre Smith in 2012, the need is lessened. I would rank the need to re-sign Williams right up there with guys like Mike Nugent, Reggie Nelson and Manny Lawson.
What do you think?