CINCINNATI — The Bengals are expected to make a run at some of the top offensive linemen in free agency.
After years of watching a below average line fall flat at Paul Brown Stadium, the organization needs to get it right in the trenches.
Joe Burrow is on a rookie contract for the next three seasons. He's a bargain. That gives the Bengals plenty of financial flexibility to address their biggest weakness in free agency.
Two of the top linemen that could be available this offseason are tackle Taylor Moton and guard Joe Thuney.
Moton, 26, will likely re-sign with the Panthers before hitting free agency, but there's a chance he hits the market.
Thuney, 28, was franchise tagged by the Patriots last offseason. He's expected to hit the market.
While signing one or both players would be ideal for the Bengals, it's going to cost them.
Both Thuney and Moton made ESPN's list of free agents that will get paid more than expected this offseason.
"Thuney will hit free agency with a pristine résumé. He has played in 90 career regular-season and playoff games, more than any other player in NFL history through five seasons, and he has never missed a start," Field Yates wrote. "He has two Super Bowl rings as the Patriots' best offensive lineman for a significant portion of that stretch. While Thuney has played left guard most often, he has also flexed out to left tackle and center when needed, handling both of those duties seamlessly. He's a technician who has held up well against the best of the best competition, has rarely been penalized, has A-plus football character and is very much still in the prime of his career. I expect Thuney, who played on the franchise tag this season, to sign the richest free-agent contract for a guard in NFL history."
The Bengals aren't known for spending top dollar at the guard position, but that could've changed since they decided to let Kevin Zeitler leave in free agency following the 2016 season.
Thuney is expected to command a four-year, $60 million contract. The Bengals could certainly make that work, but spending top dollar on an offensive tackle might be more beneficial than paying Thuney that type of money.
Moton is expected to receive a big-time contract from the Panthers or someone else. He played every single snap at right tackle for the Panthers this season. Carolina wants to keep him, but there's an outside chance he hits the free agency market.
"Another player in the prime of his career, Moton is best suited at right tackle, but he has the versatility to flex to left tackle in a pinch when needed, only heightening his value," Yates wrote. "Moton also fared well in ESPN's run block win rate metric this season, ranking as one of the top 10 tackles in the league. We've seen offensive linemen fare extremely well in free agency in recent years, and while the left tackle market is still the highest-paying, the disparity in positional value between left and right tackle has diminished. Carolina has the means to retain Moton, but don't be surprised if his annual price tag comes close to $15 million per season."
In a perfect world, the Bengals would sign both players, but that's unrealistic. If they can find a way to land Thuney or Moton, it would go a long way in stabilizing their offensive line in 2021 and beyond.
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