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Bengals decline fifth-year option for Billy Price, per report

Injuries and inconsistent play have kept Price from coming close to his potential.

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NFL: OCT 25 Browns at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As expected, the Cincinnati Bengals are declining the fifth-year option on offensive lineman Billy Price, according to ESPN.

Price would have been guaranteed $10.413 million if the option was exercised, but he’s now slated to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

The 21st overall pick out of Ohio State in the 2018 NFL Draft, Price has struggled to make his mark in this league, partly due to nagging injuries that plagued him over his first two seasons.

Going into his rookie year, Price suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the 2018 NFL Combine, though he recovered in time to take part in training camp and the preseason. He would start the team’s first two games at center before suffering a foot injury that would cost him six games.

Once Price returned to the lineup, he started the final eight games and finished with a 55.5 Pro Football Focus grade.

During his second season in 2019, Price battled plantar fasciitis and a back injury while appearing in 16 games but started just eight times and finished with a 41.9 PFF grade. He started seven games at right guard and one at left guard.

This past season, Price appeared in all 16 games but started just once (center vs. Titans in Week 8 while Hopkins was out due to a concussion) and finished the season with a 50.7 PFF grade playing mostly as a guard off the bench. By all accounts, he was healthy throughout the season but never could do enough to crack the starting lineup, especially with Hopkins locking down the center spot.

However, Hopkins suffered a torn ACL in Week 17, so he could be limited or even sidelined for the start of the 2021 season. That could allow Price to challenge to be the No. 1 center, though he may compete for one of the starting guard spots as well.

One thing that we’ve not seen yet is what a healthy Price can do while playing for offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Pollack was here in 2018, but Price was obviously injured most of the year.

And for the last two years, Price was coached by Jim Turner, who is no longer employed and probably won’t be back in the NFL anytime soon, if ever.

Pollack, on the other hand, is regarded as one of the NFL’s better o-line coaches and could be exactly what Price needs to reach his full potential.

Could this be the year Price puts it all together and becomes a solid starter for the Bengals? It would go a long way in helping fix this offensive line and ensuring Joe Burrow doesn’t end the season on I.R. again, so here’s to hoping that’s exactly what happens.