When the Bengals signed former Panthers guard Travelle Wharton before the 2012 season, it was assumed he would be the team's starting left guard. However, when he was injured on the third play of the team's first preseason game, he was lost for the year. The powers that be pushed second-year guard Clint Boling into the starting position.
Now the starting left guard job is Boling's to lose.
In his first full season as the team's starting left guard, the former fourth-round pick finished with six sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus, and excelled as a pass protector, though he struggled at times as a run blocker. Boling finished with a final grade of 8.2, which was the 23rd best performance by a guard through the 2012 season, right behind Carl Nicks and right above Richie Incognito.
Boling will likely compete for the job when camp begins, but as of right now, Boling is the team's starting left guard. He was asked to step up and that's exactly what he did. The big difference between Boling and Wharton is run blocking. Wharton is more powerful than Boling, but Boling is the better pass protector now.
This makes a clear divide on the offensive line. While the right side of the line, assuming Andre Smith re-signs, is comprised of the power-blocking duo of Smith and Kevin Zeitler, the left side is composed of Andrew Whitworth and Boling and they are better pass protectors than run blockers.
While Boling is likely the team's choice for starting left guard right now, that doesn't mean that they should release Wharton. Having an extra body on the offensive line that can play either guard position is a valuable tool. While Wharton is due to be payed $2.675 million and he accounts for a $3.375 million cap hit, the Bengals have plenty of money to keep him around, even if he doesn't play a single snap.
However, as of right now, Wharton's $3.375 million will be backing up Bolings' $675,362, and that's how it should be.