Eight years in the NFL is a long time for a fourth-round pick. Being a starter for seven of those years is even more rare. Since the NFL Draft became just a seven-round affair in 1994, only 27 fourth-round picks have turned out to seven-year starters.
Clint Boling became No. 27 in 2018.
Since 2012, the left guard position was never a sore subject and never anything but an asset for the Bengals’ offensive line. Boling simply wouldn’t let that become a reality. He went from a welcomed change of pace from Nate Livings (ew) to one of the more unknown gems at the position in the entire league.
Seven years and over 7,000 snaps later, Boling never quite became an elite player — not that he needed to be — but he now retires as one of the better offensive linemen in recent Bengals history. Actually, in ALL of Bengals history.
We wish you the best in retirement Clint Boling!— PFF (@PFF) July 15, 2019
Boling was an ironman playing 750 or more snaps in every season since his rookie year, allowing only 184 total pressures (42 sacks+hits) in over 4,300 pass-block snaps throughout his career. https://t.co/hfVgQhXCdv
But he is now retired, announced today by the team, and his spot at left guard is now wide open. Coupled with the fact that first-round pick Jonah Williams won’t be playing this season, this seems like a big blow for the Bengals as a whole. Nothing is ever a complete negative, though, and with this news, there are a handful of beneficiaries. Let’s start with the most obvious one.
You hear that buzzing noise? That’s #WestermanHive growing stronger than ever.
Westerman hive is alive! pic.twitter.com/FR2W3Vpt4m— JG (@JoeGoodberry) July 15, 2019
In all honesty, if Boling (without a blood clot) had to compete with Westerman for his spot at left guard, I’m not entirely sure who would win. Sure, Boling was getting paid more, but this is comparing a potentially ascending player to a potentially declining one. Two lines with different slopes eventually have to intersect on a graph.
The Westerman narrative has been more than played out at this point: good in-game player, apparently bad practice player, full stop. Clearly the previous coaching staff couldn’t come to trust him when it counted and we’ve seen just 183 snaps from No. 63 in three years, most of them have been of high quality, which is why he’s now their best option at the position.
Jim Turner is now Westerman’s third offensive line coach and Zac Taylor is his second head coach. If he can’t get on the field now, he may never for any team. But if given an actual chance, there should be no surprise as to who’s starting at left guard, and that bodes well for Westerman at this very moment.
Signed even before Williams’ injury was announced, Jerry was originally viewed as nothing more than a camp body. Life comes at you fast in the NFL in good and bad ways. For Jerry, it’s the former.
If for some reason Westerman can’t win Boling’s job, Jerry becomes the next best bet. After sitting on his couch all of last season, this would be quite the comeback for the eight-year veteran.
At the very least, Jerry’s chances at making the final roster just got a sizable boost. Depending on how many guys they plan on keeping at the interior spots, Jerry should be around the remainder of the offseason and then some.
As of now, there’s nothing stopping us from thinking Hopkins has any less of a shot than Westerman or Jerry, and he’s the one with actual starting experience with most of the players that make up the rest of the unit.
Hopkins has shown to be proficient at all three interior spots, and that versatility should’ve already made him a lock for the roster. His role may be slightly different depending on what the plans for rookie Michael Jordan are, but Boling’s departure should increase Hopkins’ value.
Yes, even him.
Redmond’s four-game suspension didn’t just evaporate and he’s still far from a roster lock, but his path to the final 53 didn’t just become harder with Boling’s retirement. Compared to the other three, Redmond benefits the least, but benefitting a little is still benefitting.