More often than not, the Bengals have been able to re-sign their best free agents and keep them for most, if not all of their prime years.
That was the case last offseason when Clint Boling was easily the best player Cincinnati watched hit the free agent market, unsure if he would return to the Queen City. He was one of the best offensive lineman on the market and arguably the best guard available. Many teams showed interest in him, but after testing the market, he opted instead to re-sign with the Bengals.
It ended up being a five-year deal worth $26 million, which averages out to $5.2 million per season. He's now signed through the 2019 season, making him the only 2015 Bengals starting lineman signed through the 2017 season.
That was a smart move by the Bengals, given Boling has been part of one of the NFL's best guard tandems during the past three seasons. He and Kevin Zeitler have helped anchor an offensive line that's annually been ranked among the NFL's best.
Originally drafted in the fourth round out of Georgia in the 2011 NFL Draft, Boling was part of one of the best draft classes in franchise history that included A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. While Boling hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as those two, he has become a quality NFL guard.
This past season, Boling started in all 16 games for the third time in his four seasons as a full-time starter. He finished as Pro Football Focus' 21st-ranked guard and was part of an offense that was among the NFL's best before Andy Dalton's injury.
In fact, it was Dalton and the quick-passing game that helped Boling look better than he really was at times early in his career, but he's developed into a good player who could play for any NFL team. What's really improved over the course of his career is his run-blocking. This is an area where Boling used to get pushed around a lot, but he's been doing the moving more often than not now.
In fact, PFF gave Boling a higher run-blocking grade (82.4) than in pass-blocking (72.3). He wasn't exactly a stud in either area, but just being good in both regards made him one of the league's better guards. You'd be surprised how many guards are good or even great in one area of blocking but struggle in the other. Boling was good in both, and he's been a tremendous asset to the offense as he's grown into the player he is today.
And again, Boling is the only starter signed for more than two more seasons, and he may very well become the old man on this line very soon. Hopefully, he'll be in Cincinnati for at least the duration of his current contract and continue playing at a high level on an offensive line that will likely see at least one new starter in 2016.