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NFL Draft 2014: Bengals could look at offensive tackle

Could the Bengals go after an offensive tackle in the '14 NFL draft if Anthony Collins doesn't re-sign?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have options on the table with their offensive line.

Anthony Collins will become an unrestricted free agent this March. Being as though he didn't allow a quarterback sack in 330 passing plays this season (along with a productive history before that), he's earned the right to look for a starting job with the accompanying salary.

If he leaves, does that mean Andrew Whitworth slides back out to left tackle? That depends. According to Geoff Hobson, the Bengals "want to pursue" Collins before he hits free agency. If they're able to seal the deal on Collins, Whitworth will remain at left guard in 2014.

If they can't, it doesn't automatically mean that Whitworth moves to left tackle. They may draft someone. However, those decisions won't be made until after free agency and the NFL draft, largely to see how everything plays out.

"We're going into the offseason with open eyes and making the best decisions there are. Whit can play left tackle and left guard at a high level," Alexander said. "Once the draft and free agency are over, we'll make that decision. A.C. showed how well he can play. Hawkinson showed real quickness and athleticism, but he needs to improve his strength. He still has some development."

Hawkinson was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2013 NFL draft, but was inactive in 11 games this season.

The last offensive tackle that Cincinnati selected in the first round was Andre Smith during the 2009 NFL draft. And before that, Levi Jones in '02 and Willie Anderson in '96. Collins and Whitworth were fourth and second-rounders respectively.

When Smith was a free agent last April, Cincinnati nearly selected Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson in the second round to replace him. However, Smith signed a three-year deal just before Cincinnati was placed on the clock, using their first second-round selection to snag North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard.

"Yeah it was nice. He waited until the last possible second," said Paul Alexander last year. "Mike (Brown) brought him in the draft room and showed him we had (Menelik) Watson on the top of our board. He said, ‘It's a good thing you signed.'"

Watson missed the first seven games last year with a knee and calf injury, before starting three games with a Pro Football Focus score of -6.1. Giovani Bernard generated 1,209 yards from scrimmage and scored eight touchdowns and kept Andre Smith, who graded (+18.5) as the league's seventh-best right tackle.

That was close.