When the Cincinnati Bengals lost its two best offensive linemen, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler, in free agency a few months ago, the club was forced to look to players like Cedric Ogbuehi to step up and fill the large void. Starting right tackle Jake Fisher, expected starting right guard Andre Smith and aging veteran tackle Eric Winston are the only other tackles on the Bengals’ roster with any NFL experience, meaning Ogbuehi will be a very important component to the Bengals’ roster in 2017. And, that’s a roster that’s looking to be much more successful than it was in 2016 with Whitworth and Zeitler.
For almost two decades the team has relied on high draft picks to start at the the left and right offensive tackle positions. Andrew Whitworth and Levi Jones were second and first round picks respectively, on the left side, while both Smith and Willie Anderson were high first round picks playing the right side. The team is continuing this trend with Ogbuehi (first round pick in 2015), who started at right tackle in 2016 until he was benched and is now set to be the team’s starter on the left side in 2017.
Position: Offensive tackle
Weight: 310 pounds
College: Texas A&M
Hometown: Allen, TX
Experience: 3rd year player
Draft Status: 2015 first round pick
Ogbuehi is playing under his four-year rookie contract, which totals $9,325,677. In 2017, Ogbuehi will earn a base salary of $1,282,789, while carrying a cap hit of $2,543,366 and a dead cap value of $4,227,841, per Spotrac.
As both Russell Bodine and Evan Mathis can attest to, for different reasons, one’s roster spot and playing time on the Bengals’ offensive line is not always directly proportional to how well they have played their position while donning a Bengals’ uniform. This bodes well for Ogbuehi, who has struggled with a litany of issues from injuries, to poor technique, and a lack of core strength. When he was drafted, the Bengals waxed eloquently about how Ogbuehi had all the athletic traits of a starting NFL left tackle, which was seemingly the case when one looked at his film and workouts. But the other thing that stood out in his college film was his inability to consistently put those traits to effective use.
In his final season for the Aggies he moved to left tackle, and promptly surrendered seven sacks in 13 games, which placed him as one of the worst at giving up sacks among drafted tackles in 2015, and worst in the SEC. He was even demoted from left tackle for a brief spell in that final year at College Station. The Bengals looked past the flaws and saw a guy they could mold into the next Andrew Whitworth or Levi Jones. His technique can be cringe-worthy and seems to betray a lack of ‘feel’ for pass blocking. Last season, we saw he tended to wait for pass rushers to engage him, absorbing their rush, losing both leverage and power. And when he did engage pass rushers, his lack of strength was usually evident, as they easily shoved him out of position.
This offseason, Ogbuehi has been working on those things and more as he prepares to become the full-time starting left tackle, filling the massive shoes of Whitworth. It won’t be easy and all eyes are on the now third-year tackle as he attempts to step up to the plate.
His first two seasons in the NFL have been easily disappointing, especially for a former first round pick, but Ogbuehi brings a level of optimism for the glass-half-full fan in 2017. This offseason will be his first fully healthy from OTAs to training camp to hopefully the preseason and his work this offseason at the Unbreakable Performance facility has people raving about his improved strength and conditioning. Even if the current hype doesn’t pan out, when long-time Bengals’ left tackle Andrew Whitworth left for a huge payday in Los Angeles, Ogbuehi’s roster odds went from a pretty certain guarantee, to an absolute lock.
Unlike many young left tackles who struggled in college and in the NFL, Ogbuehi has a death grip on a roster spot. Sure, some of that is due to necessity on the part of the Bengals. Still, Ogbuehi has a lot of untapped potential and with at least two more years remaining on his rookie contract, it’s unlikely he would be released by a team renowned for keeping their own and sticking to their guns.
Roster Odds: 99.999 percent.