Marvin Lewis made it clear he wants impending free agent center Russell Bodine to return, but if the Bengals decide to finally move on from the former fourth-round pick, Travis Swanson could be a fit.
Swanson became a starter for the Lions at the end of his rookie campaign after being drafted in the third round out of Arkansas in 2014. A first-team All-American in his last year in college, the California native ended the past two seasons on injured reserve with a concussion, but he recently claimed he was misdiagnosed and said it was a bad reaction to medicine what caused the symptoms.
The Bengals bolstered their offensive line trading for Bills tackle Cordy Glenn, and should try to keep improving a much maligned unit that is key if the team wants to have any success in 2018. Swanson wasn’t much better than Bodine, but maybe a change of scenery would go a long ways for both Cincinnati and the free agent center.
Mike Brown and company haven’t showed they value the position high enough to commit big money to it, so somebody coming off a down season like Swanson, but remains young and with upside, could be an affordable option.
Years pro: Entering his 5th season
Height/weight: 6’5”, 304 pounds
Last contract: $3,327,000 for four seasons, $1,772,000 in 2017 (rookie deal)
Why it makes sense for Bengals
He’s young and affordable: The Bengals won’t probably break the bank for a free agent center. Finding a valuable piece at only 27 years of age and with 42 starts already is rare, even if his play trended the wrong way in 2017 and there are health concerns.
He’s not Bodine: He might not be much better, but four years of Paul Alexander’s protegé are enough, and with the former offensive line coach gone, it could be the time to let Bodine go. Swanson is also of a different mold, with good lateral quickness and nice mobility in space.
Familiarity: Even more important than talent for Brown and Lewis is familiarity. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was in Detroit during the same years as Swanson, and he probably knows the lineman well.
Why it doesn’t make sense for Bengals
Health concerns: No matter what Swanson said about his misdiagnosis, he also had a concussion end his 2016 season and those injuries are not ones to joke around with. Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin also praised Bodine’s availability recently while discussing the value of players who don’t miss games. With that said, Swanson has missed games while Bodine has not.
He’s not a huge upgrade over Bodine: The Lions have had a dismal running games for years and part of the reason is because their offensive line hasn’t been good enough. With a very expensive quarterback to protect, if Swanson had showed more promise Detroit would have made an effort to retain him.
Bengals seem in love with Bodine: I know.