The Bengals have vowed to be more active in free agency, but they have also said they won’t be chasing guys that don’t fit what they do. That basically means we really have no idea what will actually happen until the new league year officially gets underway. The legal tampering period begins Monday at 4:00 p.m. ET and free agents can officially sign new deals on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.
One way to prove the Bengals are turning over a new leaf as far as team building is concerned is to go get one of the best offensive linemen available in this free agency class, Ryan Jensen.
Jensen just became a full-time starter for the Ravens at the center position in his fifth-year, but he made the most of it. There is no doubt he could be an incredible upgrade of Russell Bodine (who is also a free agent). It could cause almost a night and day difference between the offensive line from last year to this year.
Spotrac projects Jensen to get a 5-year, $44 million deal averaging about $8.9 million per year. That would be a big-value contract, but it could also dramatically impact the Bengals’ offensive line for the better.
College: Colorado State
Years Pro: Entering his sixth season
Age: 26 (27 when the season starts)
Height/Weight: 6’4,319 pounds
Last Contract’s Details: One-year worth $1.797 million
Benefits to the Bengals signing him
- Instant upgrade: We have all watched Bodine be the weakest link in the middle of this offensive line for four years now. It is almost to the point that we have forgotten what it looks like when your center can actually create running lanes and not get pushed back into the quarterback’s lap most plays. Pro Football Focus ranked Jensen as the 13th-best starting center in the league. That is something Bodine finished near the bottom of.
- Hurts an AFC North opponent: The Bengals have been forced to let offensive linemen walk for a couple offseasons due to cap issues. Jensen helped solidify the middle of that offensive line last season. He helped resurrect their rushing attack, and it became a strength for them. Imagine if we took that away from them?
- Would help fan morale: After the team re-signed Marvin Lewis for two more years there is a sense of us all setting up for the same old offseason where the Bengals don’t do much of anything. I get the Bengals are one of the cheaper teams in the NFL, but the idea that they don’t bring in almost any quality free agents from other teams is silly in today’s NFL. This would be a win-win for a team looking desperately for some positive PR. They would be adding a quality player without spending a huge amount of money.
- He has reddish hair: Adding another possible red headed player could help Andy Dalton feel more comfortable with the team, especially if he is taking snaps from him. Some may say that having two redheaded players is going overboard, but I say embrace the red in the middle. (There are some pictures where it looks more brown than red, but I’m rolling with it.)
Reasons that could deter the Bengals
- They value familiarity too much: They would probably like to bring back Bodine just because they know what he is. They know what they are spending their money on. This is a very dumb stance to take though when Jensen is clearly the better player, and he may end up with a similar deal that the Bengals will give Bodine.
- Only one year as a starter: Jensen has played five seasons in the NFL, but last year was his only year that he started all 16 games. It is possible we saw a contract year from a player. It also possible we saw a coming out party. This is probably something that could scare off the very close minded Bengals.
- The draft has several starting caliber centers: The Bengals could be hoping a player like Billy Price falls to them in the second round. Any of the top tier centers of this year’s draft could likely come in and start right away for the Bengals, and they would probably be a cheaper option. It is a riskier option though, obviously.
- The massive contract: The Bengals would likely rather re-sign Bodine at a team-friendly price than pay out a huge sum for Jensen, who they aren’t familiar with.