Bengals have the cap space, draft picks to make much-needed improvements to offensive line – Cincinnati Bengals Blog


CINCINNATI — If Joe Burrow was hurting, he didn’t want anyone to know it.

Fifty-five minutes after the Cincinnati Bengals lost Super Bowl LVI to the Los Angeles Rams, the quarterback walked out of the team’s locker room at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, fresh off a 23-20 loss in which he was sacked seven times.

Any limp was hard to discern despite a sprained MCL in his right knee. More than a year after he suffered a season-ending knee injury, the lasting image in his final game of the 2021 campaign was again of him on the ground, succumbed to the overwhelming pressure from an opposing defensive line.

It also means the main offseason conversation surrounding the Bengals will be the same one Cincinnati had in 2021 — is the franchise doing enough to protect its franchise quarterback? The Bengals have the money and draft picks to devote ample resources to improve one of the worst pass-blocking units in the NFL.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor defended the O-line but acknowledged that improvements will need to be made across the roster.

“I think that we’ll just look to improve the team any way that we can and not specific to one necessary group,” Taylor said. “The offensive line helped us get to the Super Bowl. They gave us opportunities to go win the Super Bowl.”

The Bengals led for virtually the entire second half against the Rams until Los Angeles scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:25 remaining. But Cincinnati also surrendered seven sacks, tying a Super Bowl record.

Burrow finished Super Bowl LVI with a sprained MCL in his right knee, Taylor said. Burrow did not finish the Week 17 win over Kansas City Chiefs because of a right knee injury, one he said he suffered Dec. 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Despite the Bengals having a pass block win rate of 18%, the lowest for any game in the NFL this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Burrow praised the offensive line after the loss.

“They played really well upfront today,” Burrow said after the game. “They fought. I was proud of the way they fought all season. We all have to get better individually, myself included.”

Nobody is debating the effort from Cincinnati’s offensive line. But against the Rams in the Super Bowl and for much of the postseason, the unit was overmatched by more talented defensive fronts.

The Rams featured two of the NFL’s first pass-rushers in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Von Miller. Donald is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and is considered one of the best defensive lineman to ever play the game. Miller, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, is a former Super Bowl MVP who has averaged 11.6 sacks a season in his decorated 11-year career.

Cincinnati’s offensive line does not have the same pedigree. Outside of left tackle Jonah Williams, a first-round pick in 2019, the other four starters on the unit were either drafted in the sixth round (Hakeem Adeniji, Isaiah Prince) or were undrafted (Quinton Spain, Trey Hopkins).

While the group battled all year, Cincinnati finished the regular season ranked 30th in pass block win rate and Burrow was sacked 70 times in 20 combined starts including the playoffs.

“You don’t want your quarterback to get hit one time, let alone however many times it was, not even counting the things that weren’t sacks, just him getting hit in general,” Bengals tight end CJ Uzomah said after the loss .

Uzomah, who played through a sprained MCL injury, said it has been tough to see Burrow get hit that often.

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Mike Greenberg and Mike Tannenbaum discuss the Bengals’ extension of coach Zac Taylor through 2026.

“I mean, that’s [Joey] Franchise, right? You don’t want to see your franchise quarterback as many times as he did,” Uzomah said. “That’s probably going to be a point of emphasis coming up.”

Starting with the 31st overall pick, Cincinnati has its full allotment of draft picks, including an extra seventh-rounder acquired in last year’s trade with the New York Giants.

Cincinnati can use that capital, as well as the $48.9 million in starting salary cap space to try and make the necessary improvements. Spain and starting right tackle Riley Reiff are outgoing free agents, while the Bengals must also need to see if 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman can be a long-term solution at right guard.

The Bengals have tried to use high draft picks on offensive linemen in previous years. Center Billy Price (2018) and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (2015) didn’t pan out for Cincinnati for different reasons. The Bengals remain optimistic that Carman can be a key contributor.

This year’s Super Bowl run showed that the time for rebuilding is over. Cincinnati is in its championship window. That means fixing weak spots on the roster immediately if the Bengals want to be competing at the game’s highest level.


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