If you have found yourself discouraged with the progress that the Steelers have made over the course of the offseason thus far, you can still take solace in the fact that you are not a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, as their team has suffered a number of significant free agent losses over the course of the past two seasons.
This year, in my opinion, has been particularly damaging given the surprise of having lost both left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler, two Pro Bowl players who were their best offensive lineman. Compounded by the fact that their young pedigreed linemen so far being unable to live up to their draft status, the faltering of their offensive line could presage a significant collapse.
In a move that is working to help stem the tide, the Bengals yesterday made the predictable move in re-signing Andre Smith, who spent his first six seasons with the team after they made him a first-round draft pick back in 2010.
Their long-term starting right tackle signed a one-year contract with the Vikings last season, but he suffered an injury that limited him to just four games before being placed on injured reserve as Minnesota’s offensive line also fell apart and basically prevented any chance of continuing their success early in the season.
That is a bit of a key here, as injuries have been a common theme throughout Smith’s career. Over the course of seven seasons, he has only played in 86 of a potential 112 games, meaning that he has missed 26 games, or an average of nearly four games per season. He has only started 77 of those 86 games.
Smith has played 16 games twice in his career, during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which more or less coincides with the most successful period of his career. He missed seven games in 2014 and then two in 2015 before missing 12 with the Vikings last season.
Not that bringing in Smith will solve all of their problems. The fact of the matter is that the Bengals have a lot of figure out right now between now and the start of the regular season when it comes to their offensive line.
Smith can presumably start at right tackle if necessarily, though it must be kept in mind that he is coming off yet another injury and is now on the wrong side of 30. It should be concerning, however, if he does have to start, because it would be a further indictment of Cedric Ogbuehi and/or Eric Fisher.
The two aforementioned were the Bengals’ first- and second-round picks in 2015, their presumed plan for the future in a post-Whitworth, post-Smith world. Both have already failed at right tackle, being benched in favor of the veteran Eric Winston.
At least one of them will be required to step in and fill Whitworth’s shoes, which is the biggest problem. The idea has been kicked around that Fisher could move to guard and replace Zeitler’s spot. But right now they are dealing with uncertainty at three offensive line positions, and even their center could be under question.