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2016 Cincinnati Bengals Offseason Outlook: Offensive Line

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There won't be any big changes along this offensive line, but there will be new faces in the offensive line group meetings when training camp starts.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After reviewing a few groups which enter the offseason set with their personnel and depth charts (quarterback, running back and tight end), we dive into the offensive line, a group that won't have any big or surprising changes, but will see some new faces come 2016.  The Bengals will be returning four starters along their offensive line -- assuming right tackle Andre Smith walks in free agency -- and with the drafting of Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft, their starters for 2016 are on the roster. What that starting lineup may look like when real games begin, is still a question, but I don't expect any starters who were not on the roster in 2015.

2015 Recap:

Sacks

Rank

YPA

Rank

32

t-8th

3.9

t-20th

Entering the 2015 season, the Bengals' offensive line was considered a top five unit, and, despite struggling at times, most felt they lived up to those expectations. However, my eyes weren't impressed. As the season wore on, Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron were facing a decent amount of pressure and despite entering the season with what many thought was the best one-two running back punch in the NFL, the Bengals never got the ground game going...er, never got Jeremy Hill going. Perhaps defenses took an approach of stopping the run and forcing Dalton to beat them, but once Dalton had proven he could beat them, the running game still could not get going. If Hill was the biggest individual disappointment in 2015, I would put the offensive line as the biggest group disappointment in 2015.

2015 Depth Chart/Contract Numbers:

OL

Player

Depth Chart

Age

Status

Likelihood to Re-Sign

2015 Cap Hit

2016 Cap Hit

Dead Money

Signed Thru

1

Andrew Whitworth

LT

34

Signed

N/A

$7,200,000

$8,000,000

$2,000,000

2016

2

Clint Boling

LG

26

Signed

N/A

$5,100,000

$4,750,000

$2,000,000

2019

3

Russell Bodine

C

23

Signed

N/A

$624,114

$714,114

$228,228

2017

4

Kevin Zeitler

RG

25

Signed

N/A

$2,400,427

$8,070,000

$0

2016

5

Andre Smith

RT

29

UFA

20%

$6,362,500

-

-

-

6

Cedric Ogbuehi

OT

23

Signed

N/A

$1,695,577

$2,119,472

$0

2018

7

Jake Fisher

OT

22

Signed

N/A

$774,458

$968,073

$1,646,989

2018

8

Eric Winston

OT

32

UFA

30%

$950,000

-

-

-

9

T.J. Johnson

C

25

RFA

20%

$510,000

-

-

-

10

Trey Hopkins

PS

23

PS

N/A

$112,200

$450,000

$5,000

2017

2016 Outlook:

As a result of injuries and positional flexibility, the Bengals broke camp in 2015 with only eight offensive linemen on their roster. However, they normally keep nine, and once Cedric Ogbuehi was healthy, they held onto nine linemen. I expect the Bengals to keep nine from the outset in 2016, and, as you can see from the chart above, six of those spots are locked down. Much to the chagrin of many Bengals fans (especially our own Cody Tewmey), Bodine will be on the roster as either the starter or backup. While I think there will be some new additions to this unit, it is possible that all nine spots are filled with players currently on the roster.

Free Agency:

Don't expect the Bengals to fill any offensive linemen spots with free agents - other than re-signing their own. The Bengals drafted Ogbuehi and Fisher with Smith's departure in mind, so I believe Smith will be allowed to walk. Smith has been a solid right tackle, but he isn't irreplaceable and someone will offer him decent money - money the Bengals won't be forced to spend because of their foresight in drafting Ogbuehi and Fisher. I could see Winston, Johnson and Hopkins all being re-signed, but none will be guaranteed a roster spot. Any additions to this unit will come via the draft and college undrafted free agents.

Draft:

I expect the Bengals to take two offensive linemen in the upcoming draft - one interior lineman, possibly a guy who can play center, and one young tackle to groom as a backup tackle post-Whitworth. If they don't find a tackle they like, I could see them bringing back Winston as a veteran backup in case one of the young tackles struggle.