CINCINNATI — Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has been hit far too much over the past three weeks.
He was sacked eight times in Sunday's tie against the Eagles. The Bengals have given up 14 sacks on the season, which is the most in the NFL.
"The offensive line didn't give up eight sacks," head coach Zac Taylor said on Monday. "They gave up four and one of them was at the last play of the half when I asked Joe to hold on to the ball for about 15 seconds. We had receivers involved. Some were on nakeds [bootleg]. Some were on the tight end. So there were a lot of people involved. I know eight sacks is always going to be a reflection of the offensive line, but that's just not the truth after this game. We've got to continue to improve up there. We've got two guys on the left side up there have played probably a combined 10 games in their NFL career and we're only going to get better."
The left side isn't what everyone is worried about. People understand Jonah Williams is going to grow with every start. They know that Michael Jordan continues to improve.
Unfortunately, the right side of the offensive line needs work. With Xavier Su'a-Filo out for at least a few more weeks, the Bengals need to find stability at right guard.
Fred Johnson and Billy Price haven't gotten the job done. Instead of hoping Keaton Sutherland or Alex Redmond can be the solution, the Bengals need to aggressively address their biggest weakness.
They should work the phones and try to trade with a team like the Giants, who have a familiar face in Kevin Zeitler and would probably love to shed future salary for draft picks.
If they don't make a trade, which feels unlikely at this point, then they need to bring in a veteran that can help them in the trenches.
"We explore at every position," Taylor said. "Of course the waiver wire is in our favor at the moment so we always evaluate that to see if we can help our team at any position. I won't speak to one position necessarily. We evaluate everywhere."
Here are three free agents that would give them a boost at guard and/or tackle. None of these players are long-term fixes, but they could help protect Burrow until the Bengals can seriously address the problem this offseason.
The 30-year-old started 13 games for the Vikings last season. He spent three years with the Patriots and three years with the Titans prior to 2019.
Kline is an experienced right guard that could give them some stability at that position. The Bengals have already used three different players there this season. That number could grow to four or five if Sutherland or Redmond get a chance this weekend against the Jaguars.
Kline allowed two sacks last season and was penalized three times according to Pro Football Focus. The Bengals right guards were penalized three times in Sunday's game against the Eagles.
Kline has started in at least 13 games in each of the past five seasons. He has experience playing left and right guard, which helps from a depth perspective. He wouldn't command top dollar and could bring stability to the interior of the Bengals' offensive line.
Kline is a Cincinnati native and a graduate of Mason High School. Bringing him home would make a lot of sense.
Leary almost signed with the Cowboys earlier this month, but contract talks broke down. The eight-year veteran spent the first five years of his career with Dallas. He signed a four-year deal with the Broncos in 2017.
Leary spent three seasons in Denver. The team declined his $8 million option earlier this year. That was the right move for the Broncos, but that doesn't mean he can't help a Bengals offensive line that lacks experience.
Leary allowed one sack last season in 450 pass blocking snaps in 2019. He may not move people in the run game like he used to, but he excels as a pass blocker. Bringing him in would help solidify the interior of a Bengals' line that has gotten eaten alive by the Browns and Eagles over the past two weeks.
Penn is the oldest of the group, but he's still better than what the Bengals are trotting out there at right tackle. The 37-year-old played 885 offensive snaps for Washington last season.
Penn has said that he wants to play this season. He was reportedly open to returning to Washington, but that hasn't come to fruition.
Penn could slide in at right tackle and give the Bengals a legitimate option at that spot. He has good size (6-4, 315 pounds) and is the type of quick fix that Cincinnati needs.
They don't have to find a veteran to play right tackle or right guard for the next decade. They need someone to help keep Burrow upright for the rest of the 2020 season.
This is arguably the worst fit, since Penn has spent most of his career at left tackle. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and has more physical tools than Bobby Hart. Adding Kline or Leary is more likely, but Penn deserves to be mentioned.
Bringing in any of these three linemen could help them protect Burrow for the remainder of the 2020 season. A trade would be more beneficial, especially in the long-term, but these three players are solid short-term fixes.
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