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Bringing Bobbie Back

Bobbie Williams, the Cheshire Cat of the Cincinnati Jungle, returns with a new contract giving the fuzzy big man plenty to smile about. The move is by no means surprising. Bobbie has now played for Marvin Lewis for many years and was the veteran presence of last year's impressive o-line. From the outside, he appears to be an emotional leader on the team and every Bengal fan loves the elation he displays after wins.

Bringing back the unrestricted-free agent veteran does prompt a few questions though.

The first of which is, do the Bengals draft Mike Iupati if he is still there? I've made my feeling clear on this: absolutely, yes. It isn't unrealistic to think that Iupati could become a top-five guard fairly soon in his career and remain there for years to come. Because he plays arguably the lowest profile position on the field, he isn't valued fairly and that factor will benefit some mid-first round team immensely; why not the Bengals?

The way the Bengals are shaping up, the offensive line remains the most important facet of the team. Bobbie Williams is old, and Evan Mathis and Nate Livings have not sold me on becoming long-term fixtures. To this day I prefer Andrew Whitworth at guard, but I have come to accept him as a left tackle and feel okay about his future there. Kyle Cook is good in the middle—though I would like to add some competition for that spot—and Goo has to sit in at right tackle for at least the next four years to translate into a worthwhile pick. That means the most obvious room for improvement on the line is at guard. If all of this true, than it makes total sense to both resign Bobbie Williams and draft Mike Iupati if possible.

The other question is, how rapidly are Bobbie's skills fading as he ages? I feel as if his play declined last season. You could say it was a marginal drop, but it was like a coffee stain on a dress shirt; it was there, we just did our best not to notice. Not to say that Bobbie is a bum—far from it. Benson would not have been that good last year if Williams was constantly blowing it. Run-blocking is his strength; he's big and can push people backward. But pass-protection is the first thing to go for an old grizzly bear of Bobbie's age and mileage, and the wear-and-tear is already showing.

I don't anticipate Bobbie to completely fall apart in 2010, and he may not decline much from last season at all. But if injuries or general slowness make him a problem, having depth behind him becomes even more paramount. Therefore, the answer to the second question is: the drop off in his productivity is enough of a concern to keep an eye on, but not enough to panic over.

Even if Bobbie simply provides leadership and consistency to his line mates, he's worth bringing back. This is a group that Marvin said "rose from the ashes" last season and credited a lot of that to Bobbie and his veteran presence on the squad. Sure he cuts into the meager budget under which the Bengals operate in comparison to most teams, but if Marvin okays the deal I assume it to be important. My only concern is that with Williams resigned, the team now considers the guard position secure or fixed, and ignores it throughout the off-season. If not consistently addressed with youth, depth and competition, the offensive line—the lynchpin of the team's success—could return to the ashes faster than we'd like.

Mojokong—patches won't hold the dam forever.