Everyone knows that the Bengals’ offensive line has to get better this offseason. It was painfully obvious that this past season the protection wasn’t there to keep quarterback Joe Burrow upright. It also was a terrible season rushing the football as well, which only made things harder on a young quarterback.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus has a simple suggestion to help jumpstart that process for the Bengals this offseason. In a piece where he suggested one free agent for every team, he has the Bengals going after the best offensive lineman in this free agency class, Joe Thuney.
Thuney has allowed just three sacks in the past three years, posting PFF pass-blocking grades of at least 85.0 in two of those three seasons. He is also a good run blocker and doesn’t get penalized often. He would represent a monster upgrade along Cincinnati’s offensive line.
With Joe Burrow coming off a season-ending knee injury, the Bengals desperately need to put some protection in front of him going forward. Jonah Williams (70.1) was solid in his first year of action, and the team might be in position to draft Penei Sewell out of Oregon in April. Free agency would also give them a good chance to find some interior help.
Thuney would be an outstanding addition. He would provide consistency to the interior of an offensive line in desperate need of it. He is a guy who has been part of a winning culture in New England for years, and he has ties to Ohio.
Of course, Cincinnati would still have to be willing to make him one of the highest paid lineman in the NFL for that to happen. This move would also make the Bengals’ new/old offensive line coach Frank Pollak’s life much easier.
As noted in the article though, Thuney doesn’t fix things by himself. Monson specifically lists Sewell as another addition, which would be great, but the odds of him falling to five are slim even with so many quarterback needy teams in or around the top five. This move would still have to be coupled with drafting another offensive lineman on the first two days of the draft in a very deep offensive tackle class.
Signing Thuney (or any top offensive lineman) sends a clear message from the front office to the fans and players that this team is willing to do what it takes to protect Burrow as well as do what it takes to win. The fact is this team watched the other three teams in the AFC North go to the playoffs, and the Bengals now have the longest streak of seasons without a playoff win.
If you want to start competing in this division and going to places this team hasn’t been since the glory days, you have to start making moves. Adding Thuney is one step towards those things.