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Andrew Whitworth among PFF’s top NFL players of 2016

More recognition is coming in for one of the game’s best linemen and a soon-to-be free agent.

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2016 season wrapped up, Pro Football Focus is looking back at the best players of last year.

To no shock, Andrew Whitworth was among them, coming in at No. 26 in the ranking of the league’s best from the 2016 season.

26. Andrew Whitworth, LT, Cincinnati Bengals (41)

There is no more perennially underrated and under-appreciated tackle than Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals. He ended the 2016 season with the league’s best pass-blocking efficiency score (98.0), allowing just 14 total QB pressures across 561 pass-blocking snaps. Whitworth recorded six games this year in which he had perfect pass-protection games. His run blocking was solid, albeit not the strength it has been in seasons past.

Best performance: Week 7 vs. Browns, 84.1

Key stat: Whitworth was beaten for just one sack from Week 6 onwards.

Whitworth, who just finished his 11th NFL season, started every game in 2016, 15 of which came at left tackle. He also started Week 16 at left guard, while filling in for the injured Clint Boling before moving back to left tackle in week 17.

Whitworth is still among the game’s best left tackles and best locker room leaders. He finished second among offensive tackle in PFF’s rankings this season. Whitworth was also named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate in addition to being one of the top free agents set to hit the marker this offseason.

The Bengals are working to re-sign Whitworth before he’s able to test the open market, but if he hits it, you can bet that other teams will toss some big-money offers his way.

Bengals fans have known for years that Whitworth is one of the game’s best linemen, but he hasn’t always gotten the national recognition he deserves. However, PFF has consistently had Whitworth at or near the top of their offensive tackle rankings this decade, not to mention having him among their best players, regardless of position.

That’s why we should expect Whitworth to get considerable attention if he hits the open market in March. That said, I think he gets re-signed before it gets to that point so that we’ll never know what he may have commanded. It’s in the Bengals’ best interest for Whitworth to retire in stripes.

If this ranking is any indicator, the Bengals know they have a special player in Whitworth, and losing him would be about as big of a loss as this team could suffer this offseason.