So, NFL free agency officially started yesterday, and it was pretty much a disaster for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The possibility of losing guard Kevin Zeitler in free agency was always there, but I think most people expected them to at least keep tackle Andrew Whitworth.
They’re both gone, and the offensive line that was shaky to begin with is currently in shambles. Barring a big signing, the chances it is even decent rest on two young tackles who were high draft picks that have not panned out yet, and their starting center is widely viewed as a weak link.
So what happened?
Well, it appears both Zeitler and Whitworth were too pricey for Mike Brown’s team.
And, they don't pay guards big money. Zeitler is at the top of his game. He was rated the best guard on the market after not missing a snap in 2017. That translated to $12 million per year, but the Bengals don't believe guards win enough games on their own to warrant top of the market money. The Bengals didn't offer a contract but told his agent, "If you don't get what you want, come back."
He found what he wanted from the Browns, a rich contract the Bengals might regret not biting the bullet and ponying up themselves.
It takes years to build an offensive line in the NFL but not long at all for one to fall apart.
There’s probably valid reasoning behind not breaking the bank for certain positions (or players a certain age), but sometimes the reality of circumstances trumps philosophy. In the grand scheme of things, this was a very important piece to the puzzle if the Bengals want to be contenders in 2017.
This also might look better if the Bengals hadn’t already been burned by letting so many of their homegrown players walk last year and turning to new players who weren’t up to the task.
If there is a bright side, it is that Cedric Ogbuehi hasn’t been healthy in either of his offseasons with the Bengals (he is now) and Jake Fisher hasn’t been able to focus on one position until now…
A blog post from James Rapien of ESPN 1350/700 WLW got me thinking about what the Bengals might have to do to be competitive this fall if the line doesn’t really come together.
Specifically it was his suggestion they sign Andrew Hawkins (not to mention Ohio State/Alter grad Nick Mangold) that got my attention because it raises another issue.
Right now with what looks like it will be a weak offensive line and questionable running back situation at least until Gio Bernard is healthy, the Bengals might have to basically become a spread passing team to move the ball.
They've been kind of stuck in between a smash-mouth offense and a passing team the last couple of years, so it might not hurt to be forced into picking an identity, but big questions remain.
Can Andy Dalton be consistent throwing close to 40 passes a game? Maybe. He couldn't earlier in his career, but he's certainly a better player than he was three years ago.
Can they win it all like that? Probably not.
But it might be necessary at least in the first half of the season to stay afloat…
#Bengals on the open market:— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) March 9, 2017
The Cleveland Browns made waves even beyond signing Zeitler. They also acquired Brock Osweiler and a second-round draft pick from the Texans, with the latter being the bigger deal.
It led to speculation they might be able to convince the New England Patriots to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garapppolo, although ESPN’s Adam Schefter insisted on the Dan Patrick Show this morning that will not happen.
Garappolo — or someone with access to his Instagram account — caused quite a stir with a social media post this morning that led some to believe something was up…
Meanwhile, there’s lots of college basketball business to be taken care of this weekend.
Thursday was eventful as TCU upset Kansas, Michigan beat Illinois while wearing practice uniforms, Indiana may have earned a bid to the Big Dance (and a ticket to Dayton?) and Duke and North Carolina both won to set up a third meeting this season.
Old “friends” Xavier knocked off Butler to likely punch its own ticket to the tournament, too.
Dayton begins Atlantic 10 tournament action today…
Speaking of Indiana basketball, don’t look for Ohio State Hall of Famer and former Hoosiers coach Bob Knight to be making any appearances on campus in Bloomington.
Ohio State held its second spring practice of the season yesterday, and a group of Buckeye coaches and players had some interesting things to say afterward.
J.T. Barrett talked about why he came back to school rather than see what he can do in the pros, among other things.
New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson mentioned his time at Miami University when describing his football influences.
He also addressed the controversial ending of his tenure as head coach at Indiana, where the official exit was described as being because of philosophical differences with the administration but reports of player mistreatment and disagreements with the training staff followed.
Billy Price, likely to join Barrett among the team captains this year as he moves to center, also held court with the media and touched on many topics.
Among those was his takeaway from disgraced former Ravens running back Ray Rice’s talk with the team earlier this week.
Local gems: CBS This Morning profiled the Dayton grad students who broadcast the Flyers games in Mandarin Chinese… The Bengals were able to retain Dre Kirkpatrick, but the cornerback is going to have to improve noticeably to earn his reported $10 million per yer… Ohio State posted an awesome Super Mario Day tribute video… Remembering the Miami Miracle 10 years later… Springfield is going to renovate its football stadiums, but will the Wildcats keep playing on the south side or move to campus?