The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line has undergone drastic changes over the past two years, highlighted by the free agent additions of Orlando Brown Jr., Ted Karras, and Alex Cappa.
During that time, the Bengals also spent one draft pick on an offensive lineman. That was North Dakota State offensive tackle Cordell Volson, who ended up moving to left guard and started there every game as a rookie.
Now, Volson is primed to make a major jump in Year 2 after a strong finish to his first year in the pros.
College: North Dakota State
Hometown: Balfour, ND
Experience: 1 year
Volson is in the second year of his rookie contract and has a salary cap charge this year of $1,034,220.
If you want to know what kind of a guy Cordell Volson is, just ask him.
“I’m the same type of guy that most of the Bengals’ fans are,” Volson said recently. “Just a blue-collar, hard hat, lunch pail type of guy.
“I want Bengals fans to know that every single game and every single rep, they’re gonna get my best. I am as passionate about winning a Super Bowl here in Cincinnati as the fans are, and I’m right there with you.”
In the offseason, Volson works for RV Enterprises, his parents’ excavation company that does emergency service work for the railroad in North Dakota, and he loves to operate heavy equipment. His favorite?
“I love to run the excavator,” he said. “I love to move dirt. It’s really cool because you can see a lot of dirt moved in a short period of time.”
Kind of like his job with the Bengals, where he is charged with moving some of the biggest men on the planet.
Cincinnati grabbed Volson in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and he came into training camp as a decided underdog after four years at perennial FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. But he ended up winning the job and started and finished every game in the regular season and playoffs for the Bengals at left guard.
Volson allowed five sacks, 11 hits, and 38 total pressures in his rookie season but was whistled for only five penalties. Pro Football Focus gave him a regular-season grade of 51.6, but he finished the Bengals’ three-game postseason run with a much higher 64.7 grade. He allowed just five total pressures in those three playoff games compared to the eight he allowed in the Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh alone.
It’s safe to say that you can expect to see a different player this year. Just ask Cincinnati’s new left tackle, Orlando Brown Jr.
“He’s got that Pro Bowl potential with his size and mental makeup,” Brown said of Volson prior to the Bengals’ mandatory minicamp. “I think he really uses his height to his advantage. His mindset and his length are two things that are really going to separate him in the long run. I think he has the natural talent and ability to become one of the best in the league at what he does.”
And it all starts with confidence.
“For me, the biggest thing that I think is gonna be noticeable right away is just going to be confidence,” Volson said, “playing with a ton more confidence, understanding what guys are doing before they do it, understanding NFL defenses and really, truly understanding what we’re trying to accomplish.
“Extremely confident in what I’m capable of doing. Now, I got a year under my belt, I know that I can play in this league. Now it’s about finding the little things that I can get better at. You know when you go out there who you’re going against. You understand what we’re trying to accomplish offensively. You understand just how to play in the NFL.”
Getting the chance to play next to Brown, a four-time Pro-Bowler, is going to make that just a little easier.
“Really excited to play with him,” Volson said. “He’s constantly giving me knowledge, giving me nuggets, things that I can use, tools for my toolbox. It’s really cool having a guy with the experience he has and the caliber of player that he is.
“He’s one of the elites in the National Football League, and to be able to play next to him is really cool, and I think it’s gonna have a huge benefit on me, and I’m gonna learn a lot from him. Just being able to stack days on top of each other and build that chemistry is gonna be huge, and it’s gonna pay dividends once we get into December, January.”
And, hopefully, February. Volson understands that there is only one thing worth playing for, and that is a championship. Cincinnati made it all the way to the Super Bowl after the 2021 season before suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.
“Everyone in our locker room just wants to win,” he said. “That is the most important thing to everyone. Being right there just adds a little more motivation to that. Goal is set, we have one mission, and that is the whole mindset of the locker room.”
And of the city of Cincinnati.
“I’m just fortunate enough to be able to play football,” Volson said. “I just love this city, love this fan base, and am really excited for what’s to come.”
Running back Joe Mixon, who’s been with the team since 2017, made headlines recently with his claim that Volson could be a Hall of Fame-level player.
“I think he’s (Volson) going to be around for a long time, and I believe that as long as he’s on the right track and doing what he’s doing, (he’s) a potential Hall of Famer,” said Mixon.
You love to hear it.
Roster Odds: 100%
Volson is a lock to make the Bengals roster in 2023 and could be the starting left guard for the foreseeable future, depending on if he’s eventually extended.