The Bengals have not had quality play at the center position in quite a while, and it’s time to finally look for an upgrade. Luckily for the Bengals, this looks to be a solid free agent class from which to add a veteran at the position.
Although there are no superstars seemingly available, that isn’t the kind of player the Bengals would sign anyway. Whether Cincinnati wants to sign a player to hold the spot until a draft pick is ready, or if they are looking for their center of the future, there are options for both
1. Matt Paradis
Matt Paradis was an elite center in 2016, arguably the best center in the league that year. In 2017, he had a very down year and that may lower his overall value to the point the Bengals can make a move.
He is a restricted free agent so the Bengals will have to wait and see what tender he receives from the Broncos. As a player that has shown the ability to be one of the best in the league at his position, Cincinnati could pounce if the Broncos offer anything less than a first round tender.
2. John Sullivan
Sullivan is a little bit older, as he will be 33 going into next season. His play has still been very good in recent years, including this past year for the Rams where he blocked for one of the top offenses in the league.
If the Bengals want to draft a center and want a veteran to start to give the rookie time to develop, or even sign a guy who is an insurance policy, they should certainly target Sullivan if he hits the market. Sullivan would be the perfect stopgap for the Bengals.
3. Weston Richburg
Richburg is a player that has been inconsistent in his time in the NFL to this point. He has shown flashes of really high-level play and then experienced other bad stretches. Regardless, the consensus opinion is that he would be an upgrade over Russell Bodine.
If the Bengals want to find a possible long term solution at center, Richburg would not be too expensive and reportedly has a decent chance of becoming a free agent, as the Giants are looking to completely retool their roster. The Bengals should certainly see what the price would be for Richburg, considering the fact that he has very nice upside.
4. Greg Mancz
This is possibly the best option for the Bengals to address the center position in 2018. Mancz is also set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, but it seems much less likely he receives a first round tender.
In 2016, the Texans selected Nick Martin to be their starting center and he subsequently tore his ACL. This forced the undrafted free agent from 2015 in Mancz to start at center in relief of Martin.
He performed exceptionally well finishing with the 8th overall center grade in the NFL from Pro Football Focus. This past season, the Texans gave Nick Martin the center job and had Mancz play guard. Mancz performed poorly in that role and now after that is set to be a restricted free agent. The Bengals could extend an offer to the Cincinnati native this offseason.
5. Ryan Jensen
If the Bengals want to kill two birds with one stone they should target Jensen in free agency this offseason. Jensen was the Ravens starting center this past season and played fairly well. If the Bengals sign him they would simultaneously be strengthening their offensive line, while weakening the unit of the Ravens. He probably wouldn’t be that expensive, which is a staple of the Bengals’ outside free agency strategy.