Those who say that the Cincinnati Bengals have done nothing to improve their offensive line this offseason have clearly forgotten about the #GreatBarrierReiff.
The Bengals signed Riley Reiff to be the team’s right tackle in 2021, which was a clear upgrade at the position.
Reiff and Jonah Williams will be the bookends of an offensive line that is expected to protect Joe Burrow and generate a productive run game under new offensive line coach Frank Pollack in 2021.
Hometown: Parkston, SD
Experience: entering his 10th season
This offseason, Reiff signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal to become the Bengals’ right tackle for the 2021 season. Because this contract includes a void year, he is not currently under contract for the 2022 season.
Using this void year allowed the Bengals to spread his cap hit out over two seasons, while only securing his services for one. Riley will make $7.5 million in 2021, but will have a cap number of only $4.7 million.
After starting games at left tackle, right tackle, and left guard in his redshirt-freshman season with the Hawkeyes, Reiff entrenched himself as Iowa’s starting left tackle as a sophomore. He remained the starter at that position through his junior season, after which he declared for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Reiff ended up as a first-round pick for the Detroit Lions. He started at left tackle for most of his career with the Lions, but after picking up his fifth-year option, they slid him over to right tackle for his final season in Detroit in 2016. Bengals current offensive coordinator Brian Callahan was the quarterbacks coach for Detroit during that season.
The following season, he moved back to left tackle, but on a different offensive line after joining the Minnesota Vikings. He spent four seasons as the starting left tackle in Minnesota.
With the Vikings, Reiff played in a system that is schematically similar to the Bengals. Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack worked under Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison when the latter was offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans and the former was cutting his teeth as an NFL coach. Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was the head coach of the Texans at the time.
Outlook for 2021
Since Reiff’s arrival, Zac Taylor has been adamant that the 10-year vet will be the team’s right tackle. This certainly provides an upgrade over Bobby Hart, but how much of an upgrade and for how long?
Reiff is 32 and coming off of a down season. He is only under contract through the season, so the Bengals will have a choice between signing him long-term and letting him walk when the year is over. If he shows a reemergence, they could re-sign him to a multi-year deal. Riley’s age is an obvious concern, but former Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth still performing well in Los Angeles proves that although not common, it is possible for offensive tackles to produce well into their 30s.
Whitworth is also the example for the more likely scenario. Whitworth played guard earlier in his career before establishing himself as a tackle. Former Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman will likely be playing right guard for the Bengals this year. This would place the two side-by-side, creating an opportunity for Carman to learn on the job from essentially apprenticing to the highly experienced Reiff. If the team likes what they see out of Carman this season and believe he can play tackle in the NFL, they may bump Carman out to right tackle in 2022, wishing Reiff the best elsewhere.
Expect Reiff to have a productive year as the starting right tackle for the Bengals. Reiff is playing for his career, looking to reestablish himself as a top-level tackle and earn a larger contract in 2022. He will provide an upgrade at this position over what the team has had in years past and provide veteran leadership to the rookie Carman.
Riley Reiff will be a Bengal in 2021 and will start at right tackle. Plain and simple.
Roster Odds: 100%