The Cincinnati Bengals have rarely been big spenders at the center position.
That won’t change much in 2017 as the Bengals are currently ranked 14th in projected spending at center, according to Spotrac. Ever since Rich Braham retired, this franchise has treated center like one of the least-important positions of any starting spot on offense or defense. To no surprise, center hasn’t been a strength of this team either, highlighted by the last three seasons of Russell Bodine starting at the spot.
As he’s entering his fourth NFL season, Bodine will be making a modest $1,911,114 in 2017 on the final year of his rookie deal. His cap hit is higher than normal because he’s hit several proven performance escalators in his career, which have really just been earned by playing in a high number of snaps, even if the level of play isn’t all that high.
That said, Bodine has shown minor increments of improvement in each of his first three seasons. If he continues to do so again in 2017, perhaps he’ll earn a decent extension with the Bengals next offseason. With how much the Bengals express support for Bodine, you know they want to extend him and pay him nicely, even if it’s a questionable decision, at best. We can only hope Bodine develops into the kind of quality center the Bengals seem convinced he’ll become.
As for the other Bengals centers, backup T.J. Johnson will make almost as much as Bodine in 2017. Johnson, now entering his fourth season, will be making $1,625,000 in 2017 after signing a two-year extension this offseason.
That makes this position slightly higher among the ranks than it’s been in recent years when all of the Bengals’ centers were still under their rookie deals. Johnson actually got some run as the No. 1 center against the Ravens in Week 12, as well as a start at right guard in Week 17. That versatility is why Johnson will likely be the highest-paid backup offensive lineman this coming season for Cincinnati.
Elsewhere, fifth-round rookie J.J. Dielman will look to compete for the backup center spot in addition to backing up other spots along the offensive line. Both Dielman and Johnson can play guard and center, but Dielman can actually play right tackle, too.
Here is a breakdown of the contracts for Bengals centers, according to Over The Cap:
While those are the only three true centers on the roster, guys like Christian Westerman, Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond have gotten work at center. That trio of youngsters will combine for just more than $1.5 million in salary cap this season, and it’s likely at least one of Westerman, Hopkins and Redmond will not be on the 53-man roster.
The Bengals' offensive line will account for $18,922,075 in 2017 and the center position will take up $4,051,598 of that total.