Though the consensus opinion is that the Bengals will lay low in this year's free agency frenzy, they started off the new NFL year with a jolt, in terms of a player transaction. The team announced that they released center Kyle Cook, a five-year starter who had played in four playoff games. Cook's release saves the Bengals just over $2 million in cap space this year and begs the question: "so, what is next at the center position for the team?".
Paul Dehner, Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer reached out to Cincinnati's offensive line coach Paul Alexander on the move and he not only gave some praise to Cook, but also left the door open for a few options for the club going forward.
"Kyle has been a great Bengal, a tough guy and an excellent leader. In addition to being a good player, he showed great ability to coordinate things at the line of scrimmage. He has been a big help to Andy Dalton as Andy has developed into a veteran player. So we don’t want to see Kyle go without commending him for his service to the team.
But we have some other options available, involving other veterans and some younger guys, and we decided this is the best direction to go. I couldn’t tell you right now who our No. 1 center will be, but that’s because we do have a few different options that we’re confident will improve us in the end. That’s what the offseason programs and training camp are for, to evaluate those possibilities and come up with the best one.
The thought is that the recently-inked Mike Pollak could be sliding in to the starting spot to anchor the line. He was a solid center in college at Arizona State, though hasn't had the same success at the position in the NFL. He played well in relief of both Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling at times, as both were injured in the year. Still, with Boling still rehabbing a late-season knee injury, Pollak could be looked at as a solution at guard.
Then again, there is still the unresolved Anthony Collins issue. It's possible that the team freed up a couple million dollars to throw at Collins who has been a relatively hot commodity so far this offseason. If he can't be retained, the Bengals could scour the free agent market for a center to compete with Pollak, T.J. Johnson and Trevor Robinson. The draft is also an option, though it is a weak year at the position. Travis Swanson of Arkansas, Weston Richburg of Colorado State and Marcus Martin of USC are the top names at the position this year.
Regardless, Alexander makes it sound like they are open to a number of different possibilities as hopeful upgrades to Cook.