The Cincinnati Bengals have signed offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi to his rookie contract, meaning all nine draft picks are signed before minicamp even opens.
The 21st-overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft, Ogbuehi's first professional contract will pay him a little over $8 million in guaranteed salary over four years, according to Forbes. Because he was a first-rounder that fell outside the top 10, Ogbuehi can have a fifth-year option on his contract that will him the average of the third to 25th highest-paid players in the NFL at his position.
Cincinnati drafted Ogbuehi with their first pick this year, despite him having torn his ACL during Texas A&M's win over West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 29. He's progressing well in his rehab, but will likely open training camp on PUP. It's unclear if he'll play any in the preseason, or if he'll open the regular season on PUP.
"It’s great to have all these guys in the fold well before we open training camp," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "We are looking to get a lot of help from this group to extend our string of playoff appearances and then go farther. (The Bengals are one of only four NFL teams to have made the playoffs the last four years). With Cedric, that help will come a little farther down the road, but this is a guy who’s worth a little wait."
If he does, Ogbuehi will be ineligible to play in the first six games. There's also a strong chance Ogbuehi isn't able to perform at a high level this year as he works his way back from an injury that has an 8-10-month recovery period. That means he'll be working his way back from injury while also getting acclimated to the NFL.
While not ideal, the Bengals would prefer he not play at all in his rookie season, at least in a starting role. They're already set at all five spots on the line, which means if Ogbuehi were to play significant snaps this year, it would likely be because someone gets injured.
"Ced has tremendous potential and a tremendous future," Lewis said. "He’s just a huge man (6-5, 306) with great athleticism, big, long length and a huge wingspan. He protects the passer and he’s punishing as a run blocker. We were very, very pleased that he was there when we picked."
As for 2016, Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith and Eric Winston will become unrestricted free agents -- and Whitworth will turn 34-years-old this year. It's possible Ogbuehi earns a starting role as early as next year, but for now, will likely sit on the bench and learn his rookie season.
Ogbuehi also has starting experience at guard, and that could be his future position in the NFL if he can't adjust to being an NFL tackle. It's also possible second-round pick Jake Fisher takes one of the two tackle spots, and Andre Smith is re-signed to take the other one next offseason.
Whatever happens, Ogbuehi is a vital piece to the future of the Bengals offensive line.