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Free agent OL Larry Warford opts out of 2020 season

Warford was the top remaining free agent offensive lineman heading into the 2020 season.

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New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

If the Bengals want to boost their offensive line depth, arguably the best remaining option is now off the board.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, free agent guard Larry Warford has opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the coronavirus.

Warford, who was the top free agent offensive lineman heading into next season, was a cap casualty of the Saints earlier this offseason, despite finishing 2019 with a very solid 73.1 PFF grade. That would have been the best grade of any Bengals lineman by far, and there was hope within the fanbase that the team would eventually pursue Warford, though it looked highly unlikely.

Still, things can change once training camp starts, especially if there are injuries or even opt-outs within the team. The Bengals are trying to save as much cap space as possible for possible extensions with Joe Mixon and William Jackson, as well as A.J. Green next offseason (because he was franchise tagged, no new deal can come before the 2021 offseason).

But the reality is that Cincinnati needs to prioritize upgrading the offensive line to protect No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, who already will have a very challenging rookie season due to there being no OTAs or preseason. Playing behind what’s viewed as the second-worst offensive line isn’t going to make his life any easier.

Alas, we can stop the Warford-Bengals talk now. Maybe next year.