As minicamp came to a close, the Cincinnati Bengals were hit with a rough piece of news. Hakeem Adeniji, last year’s sixth-round (and sole offensive line) pick tore his pectoral tendon and is likely out for the year. A project when drafted, he ended up seeing playing time in 15 games as a rookie, including five starts. The team looked to him to further develop under new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, with an eye on him competing for the #3 or ‘swing’ tackle this year. Losing him puts a damper on a line already seen by many as thin. Thankfully, there are still some free agent options to replace Hakeem Adeniji that the Bengals should pursue.
Free Agent Options Remaining for Cincinnati Bengals After Hakeem Adeniji Injury
Hakeem Adeniji going down does not leave the team without depth options at tackle (Fred Johnson, D’Ante Smith) or guard (Quinton Spain/Xavier Su’a-Filo, Billy Price). But for a team criticized for the lack of action on offensive line this off-season, a move to bring in a veteran player would calm a lot of fears. Some quality linemen are still available that would be a boon to the depth of the line.
Wagner, now 32, has been in the league for eight years. He came into the league with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, becoming their starting right tackle in his second season. In 2017 he jumped to the Detroit Lions on a huge five-year, $47 million contract to be the anchor on the right side of their line. The Lions released him in 2020 and he later signed with the Green Bay Packers on a two year deal, only to be released halfway through.
Wagner has consistently been an above average player at right tackle, grading out at 70 or higher in all but two seasons per PFF. He has not spent any time at any other position on the line. So he would be unlikely to be able to play left tackle or guard effectively at this stage of his career. That limits his upside compared to some other options.
Kelly was a surprise cut this off-season. Last year he ended up starting all 16 games at right tackle after Tennessee Titans first-round pick Isaiah Wilson had some… issues, to put it mildly. He helped pave the way for Derrick Henry to rush for over 2,000 yards. Prior to that he performed adequately as a swing tackle. He also filled in as the starting left tackle in 2019 due to Taylor Lewan’s suspension. He was rewarded for this with a new three-year, $21 million deal heading into 2020. But ultimately he ended up a cap casualty after the Titans grabbed Dillon Radunz in the second round.
Kelly has a lot of value as a swing tackle with experience starting on both the left and right side. His last three seasons have resulted in PFF grades of 75.4, 71.0, and 65.9.
Like Kelly, Morgan Moses became expendable to the Washington Football Team after they drafted Samuel Cosmi in the second round in this year’s draft. Charles Leno was also signed by the team after he was cut by the Chicago Bears. Cutting Moses saved the team $8 million this year.
Moses has been the starter at right tackle since 2015, and also filled in at left tackle twice in 2020. He is 30, slightly younger than either Kelly or Wagner. He may be holding out hope for a starting position considering he has started for five straight years. Cincinnati may not be an attractive destination for him with both starting tackles locked in.
Turner was a perennial Pro Bowler during his time with the Carolina Panthers. However, last year was a wildly different story. Turner was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers for tackle Russell Okung prior to the season and struggled mightily on a terrible Los Angeles offensive line. He had an ankle injury in training camp and a groin injury later in the year that limited him to nine starts with the team. This off-season he became a cap casualty due to his play. The team saved $11 million by cutting him.
Turner’s 2020 appears to be an anomaly when looking at his body of work. Prior to his 34.9 grade last year, he had never scored below 60 by PFF. Did he suffer a massive regression last year? Or were his struggles more due to injury and a terrible line?
Bengals fans, and some players, already warmed to the idea of bringing the veteran in. The hashtag #WhoTrai was trending for a while in free agency, and the team reportedly contacted him at one point but nothing ever came of it.
He has spent his entire career at right guard. Signing him would indicate the team is perhaps willing to move rookie Jackson Carman, the presumed starter at right guard, out to tackle if the need arises. Or that the team is comfortable with their tackle depth between D’Ante Smith and Fred Johnson.
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