Well, the first new rookie for the Cincinnati Bengals is in the books for 2018, as Ohio State center Billy Price joins the squad. It’s a wise decision, given the team’s massive need at the position following the departure of Russell Bodine.
The addition of Price brings potential improvement to the team, but he also has an effect on the status of veteran players on the roster. Not only can he help out certain players on the roster, but it also bring pressure to other tenured Bengals.
Who benefits the most with the addition of Billy Price and who should be on watch with the Bengals’ newest first round selection?
Joe Mixon: As a rookie, Mixon flashed big-play ability, but had just a 3.5 yards-per-carry average in 2017. A gigantic portion of that had to do with atrocious blocking up front, often starting with Bodine.
Between Frank Pollack joining the club as their new offensive line coach and a unifying scheme between he and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Mixon is in for a big year. With Price in the fold, Mixon should find more room both up the middle and on second levels, as they’ll ask their rookie to be mobile in his blocks.
Andy Dalton: If Mixon is a beneficiary, then call the Bengals’ signal-caller the biggest benefactor of Price’s arrival. How many times did we see some of the better interior linemen end up in Dalton’s lap over the past few years?
man. how many times do the bengals need to see russell bodine get embarrassed before they upgrade center? pic.twitter.com/DjPIUlHayQ— charles mcdonald (a guy at the airport) (@FourVerts) September 11, 2017
Regardless of the questions of taking Price at No. 21, and there are many, there’s little doubt that he’ll be a substantial improvement over Bodine. And, like the improvement the Bengals will see in the running game, pass protection will get a big boost with Price and Cordy Glenn being new faces on the offensive line.
The guards: Over the past few years, Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler and Co. have had to pick up extra slack because of deficiencies that Bodine brought to the unit. Obviously, the team had one of its most successful campaigns (2015) when Bodine was at center, but that was a product of the other four players performing at an extremely high level.
Despite some questions with Price, he’s heady, strong and athletic, so pressure on the players who flank him will lessen. This is especially crucial, given the open competitions at right guard and right tackle this offseason.
Buckeyes fans: Pretty self-explanatory here. Many OSU fans loved Price and the fit here was obvious. In their earlier years of existence, the Bengals liked Buckeye players, but that infatuation has lessened of late.
Cincinnati now has a popular local product on their roster and a homegrown kid has a chance to live out his dream. If he ends up being a linchpin of the Bengals’ offense, the story becomes even more emotional.
Price: When phone rang I was like holy shit, it's Cincinnati. This is exactly what I wanted, to stay in Ohio and bring the Ohio State brand to Cincinnati. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) April 27, 2018
Frank Pollack: We wondered how much pull the new assistant coach would have and it appears he has had at least a little bit. Pollack might have pounded the table for Arkansas center Frank Ragnow, who went a pick earlier to the Lions, but he got his necessary grinder in the middle of his line with the team’s first pick.
The grizzled coach had quite a bit of success with the Cowboys, thanks to the team using high picks on the line. One of which was on Travis Frederick, so everyone hopes Pollack can groom Price into that type of player going forward.
Billy Price: The former OSU lineman has first round traits, to be sure. However, there are some questions about his game, as well as a partially-torn pectoral muscle he suffered at the NFL Combine.
It appears as if he’ll be the day one starter at center for the Bengals, which is good news for a guy who some thought could slip into night two. He could be healthier than some expect and No. 21 seems to be the peak of where he would have been selected in this year’s class.
Bengals’ draft plans: One pick. Many rumors had the team taking the former Razorback center in the first round. However, Detroit snaked him right before their eyes. That said, we’ve heard Price was the favored player all along.
It’s very possible that Cincinnati was going to go with a center, regardless of who was left of “the big three” (Ragnow, Price and James Daniels), but it there’s a slight feeling of the Bengals settling for Price. Then again, Dave Lapham recently said that the team loved both Price and Ragnow for their selection at No. 21 overall, so maybe we’re overreacting.
Also, value, anyone?
Bengals’ plans to start Price immediately: By most indications, Price’s pectoral injury is on track to be healed up by the time training camp will start. Still, with so many new faces on the offensive line, Price and his mates will need as much time as possible throughout the summer months to gel.
For the first time in a while, the Bengals need early picks to come in and immediately contribute. All indications are that Price will be able to do that for Cincinnati, but we also know the Bengals have had terrible luck with first round picks staying healthy.
T.J. Johnson: Look, we knew Cincinnati wasn’t going into 2018 with Johnson as their starting center. He’s a hard-worker, while providing much-needed depth and versatility, but a massive upgrade over Bodine was needed.
Unless Cincinnati goes with another interior offensive lineman with a high pick, Johnson will be the backup at center at guard next year. Still, if he had any slim hopes of starting for the Bengals this year, it all but went out of the window.