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Bengals Banter: Pro Bowl Proves Teams Future And Bobbie Williams Must Return

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Thanks to the New England Patriots' 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals are sending four players to the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl with quarterback Andy Dalton, tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive tackle Geno Atkins joining wide receiver A.J. Green, who was the only player selected to the original roster last month. Dalton and Atkins were first alternates at their respective positions, replacing Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork Sunday night. Jermaine Gresham, initially a third-alternate, replaces New England tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (the first-alternate) who are headed to the Super Bowl with Owen Daniels, the second alternate, out with an injury.

It marks the first time four or more Bengals players will play in the Pro Bowl since the 2005 squad and the tenth time in franchise history. Individually Atkins is the first Bengals defensive tackle to play in the Pro Bowl since Tim Krumrie in 1988 and Jermaine Gresham is the first tight end since Rodney Holman in 1990.

Rec. Yrds Avg. TD
J.Gresham ('11) 56 569 10.6 6
R.Holman ('90) 40 596 14.9 5

Generally speaking having four Pro Bowl players is always a sign of some achievement within an organization, mounting evidence of this franchise's future. Additionally when all of those players are 24 years old or younger, none of whom have played more than two seasons in their short NFL careers, it points to an established foundation that will still require a handful of components across the board. But it's a tremendous start.

+ A feature story on Bleacher Report listed eight players that the Cincinnati Bengals "must" allow to leave for free agency. Most are the standard players like Andre Caldwell, Mike McGlynn, Kelly Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Cedric Benson among others. The one exception we made was when Bobbie Williams' name surfaced.

To Williams’ credit the offensive line was much better whenever he was actually playing; it’s just not all that plausible for the Bengals to bring him back. Going on 36, Williams coming back from a broken ankle isn’t likely.

As it stands right now the Bengals have two offensive guards signed for 2012 with a combined five games played and three starts in Clint Boling and Otis Hudson. Those headed into free agency includes Williams, Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn. Unless you want to bring both back, it's highly unlikely and very much against the team's tendencies to stretch themselves that thin heading into the offseason when they can avoid it.

We get that Williams is older and we get that he'll have rehabiliation to recover from a season-ending injury. But the truth is you don't dump your best offensive guard in the hopes of finding suitable replacements within the next six months. You dump your best guard after you find replacements and again, based on tendencies, it might not even happen through the draft or even this year.

Cincinnati has never selected an offensive guard in the first round in franchise history and only once has the Bengals front office selected one in the second round dating all the way back to 1989. Additionally Williams was originally a free agent signing in 2004, replacing Mike Goff (a 1998 third round draft selection). Nate Livings was an undrafted free agent in 2006 and McGlynn signed on last year.

Guards Selected by Cincinnati According To Round.
First Round 0
Second Round 4
Third Round 4
Fourth Round 5
Fifth Round 3
Sixth Round 1
Seventh Round 4
Eighth Round (and later) 10

Four guards have been drafted during the Marvin Lewis era: Eric Steinbach (2003), Dan Santucci (2007), Reggie Stephens (2010) and Clint Boling (2011). Otis Hudson, a guard on the roster, was later a convert, originally an offensive tackle.

Additionally Williams signed a two-year deal worth $5.8 million in 2010, so it's not an oppressive price tag if he returned. At the very least he offers depth, leadership, chemistry and insurance for a position that the Bengals are borderline in desperation.

It's fine and good if you want to predict what the Bengals should do. And it's awesome if you hope that they'll break their own tedencies. Ultimately it does you no good until you factor in what the Bengals have done in the past, which is all we have to work with.

+ Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden declined an interview request for Indianapolis' head coaching vacancy over the weekend.

+ Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly was close to becoming Tampa Bay's newest head coach... until he wasn't.

+ Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton won the NFL Players Association Emerging Player Award. We wrote in mid-November that he had been a nomination.

+ Bengals defenisve backs coach Kevin Coyle is being targeted by the Miami Dolphins for their vacant defensive coordinator position.

+ We talked about several on-going issues with the Benagls in our latest Six-Pack of Who Dey.