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Marvin Lewis makes it clear he wants Russell Bodine back with the Bengals

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Free agency is just around the corner and we’re all itching to know what’s in store for center Russell Bodine.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most interesting questions to Bengals fans regarding the 2018 offseason is the future of Russell Bodine in Cincinnati and if the soon-to-be free agent center is going to hit the open market.

No fan I’ve spoken to wants Bodine back in stripes, yet no one associated with the team has uttered a word to make it seem like there’s a chance he’ll be leaving the team this offseason.

Marvin Lewis spoke on Friday at the NFL Combine and Bodine’s potential return was quickly brought up.

“I think Russell would like to continue in Cincinnati and it’s just a matter of if hopefully both sides can come to an agreement and fit in the middle. We’re going to have to run in parallel paths at some point as well,” Lewis said. “That’s the important part.”

It’s unclear exactly what that last part means, but it’s clear Lewis would like to see his starting center of four years back on the roster.

“He’s done a very good job for us for four years,” Lewis added. “He’s a really tough player, he’s played every game since he became a Cincinnati Bengal and that speaks to his toughness and durability. I think he’ll continue to grow and become a better player. Yeah, I’m excited.”

If Bodine does return to the Bengals, he’ll have a new offensive line coach in Frank Pollack, formerly of the Cowboys. Maybe a new coach is what the center needs to kick-start his career, though, that’s hard to imagine after four years in the NFL.

“I think Frank has a great progression of teaching and so forth. It’s going to be a new voice, a new hand and we’re excited about that,” Lewis said. “Both schematically for us with a new coordinator in Bill Lazor from the beginning and from the orientation, the entire buildup of the entire offense. We’ve got a new coaching staff. That’s exciting on both sides of the football. We’ve got a lot of change, a lot of newness and I’m excited about that.”

Earlier this week, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin also spoke about Bodine’s future with the Bengals. Lewis echoed much of what Tobin had said.

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

I’d consider Bodine back until he’s not. The next question is if the Bengals will actually add competition at the center position or simply hand back the starting job to Bodine if he does in fact return. He’s yet to have any real competition since taking the reigns in his rookie year.

So, how different will the 2018 NFL season really be for the Bengals?