The Cincinnati Bengals allowed a couple of starters to walk in free agency this offseason when perhaps they didn’t need to, but in the case of right tackle Andre Smith, a quality starter who only ended up signing just a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Vikings, the Bengals had already planned for the future at his position.
That is, of course, because they used their first two draft picks during the 2015 NFL Draft on offensive tackles, selecting Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round and doubling up in round two with the addition of Jake Fisher, theoretically securing their long-term stability along the bookend offensive line positions when it becomes necessary for the next generation to take over.
One would figure that the two second-year linemen will compete against one another in order to determine who will enter the starting lineup at right tackle to replace Smith, with the loser serving as the team’s swing tackle and, likely their sixth lineman as a tackle-eligible, which is a tool that the Bengals have already used with Fisher last season.
Ogbuehi, of course, was drafted in spite of the fact that he was rehabbing an ACL injury suffered in December 2014, and it was not until late in the season that he was even able to dress for a game, although he did so for the final five games of the regular season, as well as the Wildcard game.
Overall, Fisher saw 103 snaps during his rookie season, with quite a bit of that as an extra lineman—he even caught one pass for 31 yards—while Ogbuehi saw 70 snaps, including five in the postseason—again, much of that time served as an extra lineman.
It is worth noting that when Smith missed two games during the 2015 season with a concussion, it was not Fisher who started in his place—Ogbuehi was still sidelined by that point—but rather veteran Eric Winston, who does remain under contract, although it seems likely that they are looking at him this year more as interior depth, with the hope that one of their young tackles can handle the job.
It is worth pointing out, of course, that it won’t be easy to replace Smith, who, in spite of underwhelming early in his career, solidified himself after a couple of seasons to become a very good right tackle, in spite of his injuries and penalties.
What’s more, of course, is the fact that the Bengals will soon need another starting tackle, as their left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, is already 34 years old entering his 11th season, having made 148 yards for the team since his rookie season in 2006, even if he was a Pro Bowler just last season.
So, eventually, on a day not far from now, the Bengals are hoping that both Ogbuehi and Fisher will be their bookend tackles along their starting offensive line, because even if neither of them are ready for the start of the 2016 season, even Winston, at 32, is clinging to the last days of his career as well.