The Cincinnati Bengals have some notable names on their plate when it comes to anticipated unrestricted free agents come March. One of the biggest questions that they seem to be facing is how they want to handle the left tackle position going forward. The status of Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth very much ties into the future there.
I have written in the past months about Whitworth’s pending situation. The former second-round draft pick will be entering his 13th season next year in the season in which he will turn 36. Yet he has made the Pro Bowl in each of his past two seasons out of three total trips there in his career. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2015.
But the Bengals drafted tackles in the first and second round of the 2015 NFL Draft anticipating that they would be their bookend starters in time. They tried to peg first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi into the right-tackle spot vacated by Andre Smith. But Ogbuehi believes that left tackle is his natural position and that he would perform much better there—a claim that he made after he was benched late in the year.
Second-rounder Jake Fisher took on the starting duties for the final couple of games of the season, but certainly did not lock up the role. Neither former high draft pick has cemented themselves as an obvious future starter at this point.
Which makes the return of Whitworth all the more likely, but the veteran isn’t looking to take a discount to stay in Cincinnati. Talks are going to begin in earnest about his contract status now that the Pro Bowl is over, as his agent told the team’s website recently. Pat Dye, Jr. was down in Orlando to watch five of his clients in the game, including Whitworth.
“He’s played his whole career there and it would be cool to finish his career there”, he said. “We’ll see. There’s a lot of ground to cover between now and March the ninth when free agency begins”. You would not expect a player’s agent to play softball, of course.
Whitworth’s own remarks in the past have taken a variety of forms ranging from loyalty to steadfast self-interestedness. He has suggested that he would be open to moving to left guard, which he has played before, but he would want to be paid the way he was paid as a tackle.
The plus side is that Dye has a history with the Bengals organization, and has represented a number of players on the team in the past and present. “We’ve got a lot of history with the organization”, he said. “We get along with the Brown family and Blackburn family. There’s a little bit of kindred spirit since we’re both with football families”.
There’s always a degree of uncertainty when you’re dealing with a player who is beyond the standard number of years that a position typically supports. You’re not going to give a long-term contract to a 36-year-old lineman.