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Reviewing whether Bengals should re-sign Andrew Whitworth

What are the required conditions for Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth returning in 2017?

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Whitworth will go down as one of the best offensive linemen in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals. He hasn’t quite reached the heights of guys like Anthony Munoz and Willie Anderson, a Hall of Famer and a guy who should be. But, he has been a stabilizing force for the Bengals’ offensive line for 11 years as well as a leader in the locker room.

Induction into the Hall of Fame is probably an unrealistic goal at this point for Whitworth. He has been a fantastic player for the Bengals, but has only received three Pro Bowl selections and one All-Pro selection.

But what’s really amazing is that Whitworth is still playing at a Pro Bowl level after his 11th year in the league. The Bengals cut Anderson before the 2008 season due to his refusal to take a pay cut, but it is unlikely the team would risk losing Whitworth, especially considering how poorly the rest of the offensive line played in 2016. As long as what Whitworth wants is within reason, the Bengals should give it to him. He affords to be paid like one of the best lineman in the game, but ideally on a two or three year contract, considering his age.

Career stats

168 games played, 164 games started: 7 tackles, 5 fumble recoveries

2016 season stats

16 games played, 16 games started (15 at left tackle, 1 at left guard)

Case against re-signing Whitworth

Yes, Bengals fans love Whitworth and he has been an amazing member of the Cincinnati community for his entire tenure with the Bengals. However, he is 35-years-old and even the great Munoz only lasted with the team until he was 33. He spent the 1993 offseason with the Buccaneers but wasn’t effective enough to make the final roster. Anderson was the same age when he retired, although a year younger when the Bengals released him.

Right now, the Bengals are trying to groom Cedric Ogbuehi for the left tackle position. It is going to be difficult to do that if the ‘ironman’ Whitworth, who hasn’t missed a game since 2012, is on the team. If he’s on the team, you can expect he will be starting. It doesn’t make much sense to re-sign Whitworth and expect him to sit back in a rotational role for the sake of helping to develop a player who is trying to steal his job. Ogbuehi would likely play out virtually all of his rookie contract without any experience at the position he is expected to play long-term, if the Bengals do re-sign Whitworth.

Furthermore, we already discussed Anderson being cut in 2008 because he was unwilling to take a pay cut, despite clearly being at the end of his career. Whitworth is currently playing at a higher level than Anderson was when the Bengals cut him, but is it really worth spending another $9 million or more per season to bring him back when there are other free agents to worry about?

Argument for re-signing Whitworth

The correct answer to that last question is: yes. It is absolutely worth bringing Whitworth back for a similar salary to what he was making on his last contract. Why? Because he is still playing at the same level at which he was playing when he signed his previous contract extension. Offensive linemen can last effectively at their positions longer than most other players, and Whitworth is the absolute epitome of that. He is 35-years-old and still playing as well as he did when he made his first Pro Bowl in 2012. Ogbuehi has yet to prove he’s ready to be a starter any time soon and when you have a top option at your disposal, you play that option, even if it buries a former first round pick on the depth chart.

Whitworth has been a consistent starter for the Bengals for virtually his entire career, but he is still a bit of a late bloomer as he didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until he was 31. Though, the Bengals’ minimal national media attention played into that for much of Whitworth’s career. Still, he has made it to the Pro Bowl twice since, and finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 offensive tackle in 2016, making it clear that age has yet to interfere with his game. He is far from ready to retire and has proven to be able to contribute at a level that any team would want to employ. And on top of the many other reasons to make the effort to re-sign him, I’d like to see him retire as a Bengal when ready, and then stick around long after his playing career is over. That is all speculation at this point, but it would be great for the Bengals to reward Whitworth for his hustle and loyalty to the team and re-sign him sooner than later this winter.

Priority to re-sign: High