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Is this the year Billy Price hits his stride?

The former Ohio State center gets another shot, this time at guard.

NFL: NOV 10 Ravens at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Billy Price’s career has not gone as planned so far.

Drafted to be the Bengals’ starting center in 2018, Price has been plagued with injuries and moved to guard following the emergence of Trey Hopkins. But Price’s fortunes should be changing very soon.

In January, Price went to Dallas, Texas to work with offensive line guru Duke Mayweather, who gave him a full evaluation.

“Within a week and a half, my back was fixed,” Price said in our interview with him earlier this offseason. In fact, it appears it was not even a back injury but rather hip tightness. He’s now doing what he calls “preventative maintenance” to avoid another foot injury. He said his feet and his mental health are now “fantastic.”

Price showcased some growing pains whilst playing guard last year. He should be much improved in his second year at the position, especially considering the Bengals’ recent additions on the line and the position group’s growing chemistry.

Billy Price

Height: 6-4

Weight: 310 lbs

Age: 25

College: Ohio State

Hometown: Austintown, Ohio

Experience: 3 years

Cap Status

Price is in the third year of his rookie deal. In 2020, he’ll have a base salary of $1.5 million and a cap hit of $3.2 million. Most significantly, his dead cap hit would be $4.8 million, making it highly unlikely the Bengals cut ties with him this year.

Background

Very rarely do collegiate offensive linemen start anywhere near 50 games for their school. Price started 55 games—to be exact—for Ohio State, which is every game he could’ve possibly played in. Price was counted on from day one and never missed a single game for the Scarlet and Gray.

By his senior year, Price had made the transition from guard to center and was earning praise from scouts and draft analysts. The tenacious blocker had a knack for being a road grader in the running game and keeping pockets clean in pass protection. Due to a pectoral injury he suffered during the NFL combine, we were unable to see Price perform in the athleticism testing drills. This did not stop the Bengals from selecting him with the 21st overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, one pick after the Detroit Lions made Frank Ragnow the first center taken.

Ever since the combine, injuries have followed Price. A foot strain derailed his rookie season, in which he started 10 games, and plantar fasciitis nixed the beginning of last year for him. He was beaten out by Hopkins for the starting job at center during the preseason and assumed the role as the primary backup for all three interior spots on the line. He went on to make eight starts at guard.

Price received the benefit of doubt early in his career due to his draft position, but he now has to prove his worth. Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan stated as much back in February. That means Price will be in the guard rotation and get the opportunity to earn a starting spot, most likely at right guard.

Outlook for 2020

An injury to Xavier Su’a-Filo gives Price yet another opportunity to demonstrate his worth. The day after Su’a-Filo was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Price was seen starting at right guard in practice. Sure, it’s very early, but Su’a-Filo’s injury could give Price enough time to show just how far he’s come.

It’s just not financially wise to cut Price loose just yet. He’s an ideal backup at guard and center, and now he’s playing with added motivation as a backup. Expect Price to get some snaps at both guard positions, even if he does not start. In fact, the entire right side of the Bengals’ line could change from game to game as a result of a lack of clear-cut starters.

Roster odds: 90%