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NFL free agency: Duke Tobin emphasizes Russell Bodine’s availability

Will Bodine be back in Bengals stripes in 2018?

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Will Russell Bodine stay with the Bengals? He hits free agency next month if the Bengals don’t work out a new contract with their four-year starting center prior to then. Bodine has started 64 straight games, which ranks second among all active NFL centers.

Bodine has never missed a game in his NFL career, which is a feat in itself.

“As Pete Brown used to say, the best ability is availability and he’s been available to us for sure,” Duke Tobin said of Bodine at the NFL Combine on Wednesday. “That’s valuable. We pay these guys to play and he’s done that.”

While fans have yet to grow fond of Bodine, the Bengals seem to be his No. 1 fan. Tobin doesn’t think Bodine has hit his ceiling in the NFL, and though it’s yet to be determined how (or if) Bodine will work with new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, Tobin seems hopeful that Pollack could strike a new chord with Bodine and other linemen to get more out of them.

“I think different coaches have different philosophies. And with some coaches those philosophies run through with certain players,” Tobin said.

With that said, Tobin says all NFL coaches are looking for the same things in linemen. “You want the guy that can firm up fast, the guy who can plant his knees, we all want the same thing,” he said.

Earlier this offseason, Marvin Lewis stated he’d like to bring Bodine back.

“We want to do everything in our power to get Russell back,” Lewis said. “Russell’s been, physically, mentally a tough football player for us. He was installed there as a rookie and he’s done nothing but continue to grow and get better and frankly grow into a guy you can count on to help lead the football team. I feel really good about him. So hopefully we’ll be able to get that done. I’d like to get that done. He’d like to get that done, from what he says.”

A lot of time coach talk is simply coach talk. Lewis surely doesn’t really want to reveal too much about if he wants Bodine back. But, we’ll see soon how much the Bengals truly value the center who Pro Football Focus ranked the 25th best center in the league in 2017.

Free agency begins with the legal tampering period on March 12, running through March 14 at 4:00 p.m. ET when things officially kick off. But, Bodine could be extended at any point prior to then, if that’s in the cards for Cincinnati.