Not All Convinced Bengals Made O-Line More Than ‘Marginally Better’ With Free-Agent Additions

The Cincinnati Bengals put together a pretty damn good football team last year, one that was good enough to reach the Super Bowl and nearly pull out a win even though the roster is still very much in a growing phase.

The team’s biggest issue in 2021 was getting consistently good play from the offensive line. The team allowed something like 55 sacks during the regular season, and another 19 during a four-game postseason run, which led them to take action this offseason.

They signed three new starters in free agency, adding center Ted Karras, guard Alex Kappa, and eventually, tackle La’el Collins, the trio joining Jonah Williams at left tackle, and likely second-year Jackson Carman at the other guard spot. But is it enough? Apparently not everybody agrees.

Mike Sando of The Athletic recently spoke to a number of executives around the league to gauge their reading of the various moves teams made. Some that he spoke to don’t seem to believe that the Bengals improved their line as much as many perceive.

I loved adding the linemen just to get a new mentality there, maybe some tougher guys in there”, Sando quotes one executive. “Maybe instead of having seven that can play, you walk into the season with eight or nine, so at least your depth is better. Maybe you draft a guy this year too”. But another was less impressed with just who they added.

“I don’t know if the O-line is that much better”, this second executive is quoted in the article as saying about the Bengals’ additions along the offensive line. “Karras, who is kind of a journeyman. Alex Cappa is OK. La’el Collins will help them. I think they are better, but it’s marginally better”.

The Bengals had veteran Riley Reiff at right tackle for most of last season before getting injured. Their center was Trey Hopkins, perhaps the longest-tenured member of the team at that point, at center, whom they’ve since released. Quinton Spain was arguably their worst starter at guard, where I see the biggest upgrade.

Obviously, the Bengals made their offensive line better. I am not as impressed with their haul as many others are, but I do think the improvement is more than marginal. They won’t suddenly have a top five offensive line like they used to before they blew up their line and let Andrew Whitworth walk.

But Joe Burrow shouldn’t be sacked 50 times again. Joe Mixon shouldn’t struggle to average four yards per carry. When you have one clear weakness and cap space, it’s okay to throw money at it. That’s what the Bengals have done, and they should certainly retain a place as among the frontrunners in the AFC to reach the Super Bowl.

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