The Bengals were one of the most aggressive teams in the NFL this offseason. They committed nearly $150 million in free agency, completely remade their defense and added key pieces on offense, including No. 1 pick Joe Burrow.
Both Zac Taylor and Duke Tobin haven't closed the door on adding another piece in free agency, but it's safe to say the 2020 roster is nearly complete.
"I don’t think you ever want to take anything off the table," Taylor said last month. "If something comes available, I don’t think it’d be wise to take that off the table."
A 3-time Pro Bowler just became available. He just happens to be an offensive lineman, which is considered the Bengals' biggest weakness.
The Saints released 3-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford on Friday.
The 28 year old would arguably become the Bengals' best offensive lineman. He would certainly be the most accomplished.
Warford was the 11th highest rated guard in the NFL last season, finishing with a 73.1 grade according to Pro Football Focus. His release caught some of the NFL community by surprise, but the writing was on the wall according to Katherine Terrell of The Athletic.
New Orleans drafted Cesar Ruiz in the first round. That, combined with concerns about Warford's weight and declining skills were all reasons the Saints moved on from the veteran.
Money was a big factor. The Saints owed Warford $7.65 million, which made retaining him a challenge, especially after signing Taysom Hill to a contract extension this offseason.
New Orleans may have moved on from Warford, but that doesn't mean he can't still play at a high level.
He's gone to the Pro Bowl three years in a row and made at least 13 starts in all seven of his NFL seasons.
The former third-round pick would be an instant upgrade at right guard for the Bengals.
Projected starter Xavier Su'a Filo could compete with second-year lineman Michael Jordan for the starting left guard spot. Suddenly the interior of the Bengals' line wouldn't feel like such a weakness.
"Bringing in Xavier (Su’a-Filo), the games he played in Dallas, we think he’s a good fit with what we want to do schematically," Taylor said last month. "There are a lot of good options there upfront. We feel good. A lot of guys have to come along as well. Fred Johnson, Mike Jordan’s got to improve, Jonah (Williams) is going to be a rookie out there playing left tackle. Certainly, a lot of guys who have high ceilings and we feel like have a lot of potential."
Signing a proven commodity like Warford would make a ton of sense for the Bengals. They're hoping Jordan, Williams and others emerge as quality starters in their second NFL seasons. Hope is many things, but it isn't a plan.
Warford is a veteran with multiple Pro Bowls under his belt. His presence and experience could help a young offensive line.
The Bengals will have around $16.5 million in cap space after they sign their rookies. They could offer Warford a one-year, $5 million contract with specific incentives that would allow him to make up the difference from the $7.6 million he was set to make with the Saints in 2020.
If the Bengals wanted to ensure they'd have enough cap space, they could consider moving on from Alex Redmond and his $2.1 million contract. None of his deal is guaranteed. That would give the Bengals the flexibility to continue negotiating long-term extensions with Joe Mixon and/or A.J. Green.
Adding Warford makes sense from a football standpoint and Cincinnati has the money to make it happen.
He'll have plenty of suitors, but the Bengals should be in hot pursuit of the recently released Pro Bowler.