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Debate: Will Andrew Whitworth be re-signed by the Bengals in 2016?

Andrew Whitworth has expressed that the Bengals have not reached out to him about a contract extension. Does this mean his time in Cincinnati could be coming to a close? Should it?

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Andrew Whitworth is arguably the greatest left tackle in the league. He is also turning 34 this year on a team that will be looking to re-sign a lot of big free agents in 2016. Furthermore, the Bengals drafted Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, two offensive tackles, in the first two rounds of the draft this year. Cincinnati, though, is not in rebuild mode at all. Would they really let one of their best players and a true team player walk during the longest playoff streak in franchise history?

In the video below, Jason Marcum joins Dr. Hodgie E. Smodgie and myself to discuss Andrew Whitworth's impending free agency after the 2015 season:

Hodgie and I also share our opinions in the column below:

Who wouldn't want to keep the best left tackle in the league?

No contracts for old men

Dadio W. McDuck

Dr. Hodgie E. Smodgie

Andrew Whitworth is a premier player and arguably the Bengals’ best player.  A lot of teams don't draft guys like him for decades at a time. And we're talking about letting this guy walk? I’m sorry, but management has no choice but to make sure Whitworth retires a Bengal.

Yes, he will be 34 in December. But I strongly believe a player’s talent level must be considered when discussing age. In other words, an average lineman may not be worth a modest contract after even the age of 32. However, when you’re talking about a guy like Whitworth, the cream of the crop, his mid-30s will be better than the late-20s of many guys who will get considerable contracts. I call this "The Jordan Theory" (not to be confused with the Jordan curve theorem). Let me explain.

In his second three-peat (‘96, ‘97 and ‘98), Michael Jordan was maybe 90 percent of what he once was. He couldn’t jump as high and his shooting percentage dropped by more than 3% from his previous three-peat. However, he was still far-and-away the best in the game. In football, think of guys like Darrell Green and Joey Galloway still being highly-productive and faster than most NFL players into their late 30’s.

The more athleticism you have, the more you can afford to lose. While players tend to see a steep decline in athleticism in their mid-thirties, oftentimes the truly elite ones can continue to be among the best at their position, simply because they were just that much better than their peers at their peak.

Whitworth is an exceptional athlete for a man his size and has slimmed down this offseason, making it possible he may be quicker on his feet than ever. He played in 96.7% of the team’s offensive snaps last year, and should be able to maintain that pace this year with his new physique. Whitworth still has a good 3-4 years in him. And he’s probably not looking for more than a four-year deal anyway. Therefore, we can throw age out of the equation.

Now, if the idea is to save money and play Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher (our first two picks in this year’s draft), it should be noted that the chances they develop into players of Whitworth’s caliber are slim. The best-case scenario is that one will take the place of Andre Smith while the other will either provide quality depth, move to guard, or - as Jason Marcum proposed in the video above - allow Whitworth to eventually move to guard.

Lastly, if Whitworth remains near the level he’s been at in recent years (which he should) and Cincinnati makes a couple of deep postseason runs (which they should), he will begin to get Hall of Fame consideration. For a team with a total of one Hall of Fame player, Anthony Muñoz (who happened to play Whitworth’s position), that is not something to take lightly.

If the name "Andrew Whitworth" sounds like something out of a Victorian detective novel, it might be because this veteran was christened way back in 1981.  Other things happened in 1981.  MTV was launched for the first time.  Muhammad Ali fought his last-ever boxing match.  I bought a new device, called a "Walkman," to listen to Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s hit song "Endless Love" over and over, until I wore out the tape.  While I’m nostalgic for those days, there’s one relic I don’t want to keep any longer:  A geriatric lineman who is soon to be on the decline.

Jonathan Ogden was a beast of a left tackle (6’9" 345 lbs). He had exceptional quickness and strength. You know when he retired? Age 33. Anthony Muñoz was the greatest Bengal in team history. Retired at...? 34. Orlando Pace? 34. I’d go on, but I have gluten-free buns in the oven and an episode of "Mob Wives" waiting for me.

Will Andrew Whitworth be good this year? Sure. Probably even great. How about in 2016? Maybe. How about in 2017? I don’t think so. And Mike Brown is nothing if he’s not frugal. You think he’s going to give a guy a four-year deal knowing he may have to cut him and have him account for [gulp] dead money?! I don’t think so. It’s either a two-year deal, or Whitworth has to go.

Let him try free agency. Maybe Daniel Snyder isn’t fully rehabbed from his addiction to bad contracts given to aging veterans as freely as samples of aspirin at Costco. Or maybe some contender desperate for weakside protection hoping to make one last run will give Whitworth a couple of years too many knowing that they’ll be in salary cap hell by that time anyway.

But I suspect Whitworth and his agent will be disappointed. Know your age. That’s what my godmother always used to say. We had an old guy in our village--a tailor, who just wouldn’t accept that he was too old for the job.  He thought he was sewing clothes, but his vision was so bad and his fingers so numb, that he was mostly sewing things to his own hands.  We called him "Clothes-Hands."  Good old Clothes-Hands.  Even he would have known better than to keep Whitworth.

So what’s the best solution? Make Whitworth available in a trade. If the Broncos really want to keep Peyton Manning upright and try for that one last Super Bowl push, I could see them offering us a second-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017. And we would be foolish not to accept that deal. It allows us to play our young tackles. And it’s in the best interest of Whitworth as well. That way, maybe the end of his career (which is nearing) won't be as disappointing - in terms  of winning big - as the beginning and middle were.