In the offseason leading up to the 2015 season, Andrew Whitworth wanted assurances from the Cincinnati Bengals.
He expressed such concerns to management leading up to the NFL Draft, as he explained on The Pivot Podcast, and what he got in return was the team drafting two offensive tackles (Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher) in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.
Whitworth, who was entering the last year of his contract, was not pleased, but he also didn’t make a mess of the situation. Instead, he put pen to paper and wrote team owner Mike Brown a letter during the start of the season.
“About mid-season next year , I wrote Mike Brown a letter, and I said look, I’ve reached a point where I’m frustrated. We’re having an awesome start to our season and the only thing I can think about is that for 10 years I’ve done what I’ve done for you, being the leader you needed and a captain and all this stuff, and now I’m at a point where I’m begging you to treat me right. You have the choice to make the decision you made. But I got the choice to and my choice is, at our bye week, I’ll have made enough money to pay you back a prorated part of my contract. And I walk away and I don’t have to think about this anymore. Or you can do the right thing and take care of me the way you should.”
Whitworth’s letter was more than just a plea to Brown, it was a threat to leave altogether. And that threat is what earned him the one-year extension he signed during that season.
“And basically his response to my letter was, here’s a one-year extension for around the number you signed your last extension for and if you want it, I think you’re correct and you deserve that opportunity. So it took me a minute. And I went back to him and I respected that one. He was honest with me from the front. And then to that he was willing to admit like, you know what, I probably didn’t handle it the best way and you definitely deserve that opportunity. And so I signed the one year extension, mainly because my family needed it and it was what’s best for us. And so I did it.”
It’s wild to think that in the midst of the Bengals’ 8-0 start to 2015, one of their best players and their biggest leader was planning on leaving the team. But that was how upset Whitworth was at the situation. At the time, the 33-year-old left tackle was coming off his highest-graded season in 2014 per Pro Football Focus, but the front office truly believed he wasn’t going to provide them any more value beyond 2015.
They didn’t make it to October of that year before caving to Whitworth’s demands; you’d think they realized how wrong they were.
But they did eventually stick to their guns after that contract expired in 2017. Whitworth moved on to the Los Angeles Rams, and Ogbuehi and Fisher quickly proved they weren’t up to the challenge in replacing him.
Much respect goes out to Whitworth for the way he handled the situation when he was in his right to make it worse, and to his point, Brown deserves at least some credit for giving Whitworth another year. The situation will never sit right with the future Hall of Fame tackle, but this silver lining should make things a bit easier for fans.