Many Bengals fans are hoping to see a repeat of last offseason’s spending to improve an offensive line that really failed to protect Joe Burrow well enough. It is something that will be extra important with Burrow likely to just be recovered from his ACL injury early in the 2021 season.
Bengals’ radio analyst Dave Lapham doesn’t seem to be confident that the team will be spending on offensive guards this offseason.
“I think they’ve got plenty of options inside,” Lapham said on the Bengals Booth Podcast. “I think the veteran players have proven [that] at the end of the season. They got [Xavier] Su’a-Filo [that] knows what he’s doing. There’s no question about it. They’ve got veteran players that have played multiple positions and definitely can play guard.”
Lapham has gotten quite the reputation for being pretty spot on with the Bengals draft. He is seemingly very connected with the front office, so his predictions and feelings of what Cincinnati will do in the offseason usually carries a little more weight.
This prediction has to be pretty disheartening to most fans who have heard this song for years now. Ever since the team let Kevin Zeitler walk following the 2017 season, this team has shown it really doesn’t value guard play. Instead it has relied on trying to draft someone or hit on a mid to low level free agent. They have also taken any sign of being serviceable as a possible stepping stone for that player to get better the next season without properly adding competition just incase that player turns out to just be a solid reserve.
The Bengals have some interesting prospects outside of Su’a-Filo at guard, especially with the return of offensive line coach Frank Pollack replacing Jim Turner. Young guys like Hakeem Adeniji, Michael Jordan and Billy Price are young guys, and the Bengals could bring back Quinton Spain who was a midseason addition who saw his production fall off later in the season, but could flourish with an offseason with the team.
It is hard to say a move like adding free agent Joe Thuney as an established piece to help anchor this line would be a bad move. It could be an even better move when you consider that center Trey Hopkins suffered an ACL injury in the last game of the season, so someone like Price is already going to be needed in the middle. It also means you just need betting on one of those players turning it around under Pollack to have a pretty solid offensive line rather than two. If Lapham is right, then Bengals fans may want to lower their expectations with bringing in a top tier guard this offseason.
One refreshing thing Lapham added was he thinks the team could look to upgrade at tackle if the opportunity presents itself.
“I do think if they could find an improvement on the edge [of the offensive line], that’s where the rubber meets the road in free agency if they can get it done,” Lapham said.
A move like this really would be welcome. Jonah Williams has been really solid when he is on the field, but he has been hit with the injury bug his first couple of seasons with the team, so having a solid option to kick over to left tackle is always welcome. It also shouldn’t rule the team out of taking a player like Penei Sewell since depth has been one of the biggest issues this offensive line has had the past couple of seasons at tackle. Even if they just bring in a right tackle to beat out Bobby Hart, that could free him up to kick inside to compete for one of those positions as well.
It would be really strange for the front office to stick to their guns about this one. This offensive line has been consistently holding this team back for years now. Now they have watched it cost them valuable time for Burrow and this team to develop because of their nonchalant attitude towards their offensive line. Maybe it is time to bring in a few established players at positions where the cream has struggled to rise to the top.