Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency: Which Interior Offensive Lineman Could Be a Fit?

The Cincinnati Bengals are lacking depth on the interior of the offensive line, and there are a number of affordable options available in free agency.

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals are set with their starters on the interior of the offensive line in right guard Alex Cappa, center Ted Karras, and left guard Cordell Volson.

But depth is a concern, considering top backups Max Scharping and Cody Ford are set to be free agents in March. And even if the Bengals intend to re-sign them, which seems likely, there is always the chance one or both could elect to leave for more money and/or a better chance of starting.

Free Agent Interior O-Linemen the Bengals Could Target

That would leave Trey Hill as the only interior offensive lineman on the roster with any sort of NFL experience, which amounts to seven offensive snaps since making three uninspiring starts as a rookie in 2021.

Nate Gilliam has been on the practice squad since midway through 2022, and Jaxson Kirkland was on the practice squad last year as an undrafted free agent before going on IR in November.

If the Bengals are unable to retain Scharping or Ford — or perhaps even if they are — they will be looking to add depth on the interior, whether it be in free agency or the draft. Or both.

The tricky part in wooing free agents is to sign someone that’s good enough to start in a pinch but also willing to initially join the roster as a backup.

While Volson is penciled in as the starter for a third consecutive year, it’s not out of the question someone could come in and beat him out. And even if that doesn’t happen, stiff competition in camp from a veteran guard could help Volson elevate his game.

Karras will be a free agent in 2025, and Cappa and Volson will hit free agency in 2026, so there is both an immediate and longer-term need to add to the interior of the offensive line.

Here are some free agents who could be fits for the Bengals.

Dalton Risner, Minnesota Vikings

The 2019 second-round pick has made 73 starts in five seasons, the first four of which were with the Denver Broncos before signing a free agent deal last year with the Minnesota Vikings.

That means he’s been on two teams with newly hired Bengals passing game coordinator Justin Rascati.

Pro Football Focus ranked Risner as the 10th-best pass-blocking guard in 2021, though he dipped to 19th in both 2022 and 2023.

The free agent contract he signed with the Vikings was for one year and $3 million, so a similar salary can be expected this year.

Nick Allegretti, Kansas City Chiefs

In addition to winning his third Super Bowl ring, Allegretti may have earned some extra money this postseason. He took over for injured All-Pro guard Joe Thuney and played well against two really good defensive fronts in those of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

Allegretti suffered a UCL tear in the first half of the Super Bowl, but he finished the game and should be good to go by the start of the season.

MORE: 2024 NFL Top 100 Free Agent Rankings

He’s been in a depth role his entire career, starting just 13 games, nine of which were in 2020. And just as Risner has an established relationship with Rascati, Allegretti would find a familiar face in Cincinnati in the person of Orlando Brown Jr., who was his teammate in Kansas City in 2021-22.

Last year was Allegretti’s first crack at free agency, and he elected to re-sign with the Chiefs for just $2.5 million. He isn’t likely to command much more than that in 2024.

Evan Brown, Seattle Seahawks

Let’s stick with the theme of past connections, even though Brown’s involves a defensive coach. Lou Anarumo was the defensive backs coach for the New York Giants when Brown was a rookie there in 2018.

Brown entered the league as an undrafted free agent and has worked his way into a starting role in 2021-22, first with the Detroit Lions and then with the Seahawks.

Seattle signed him for just $2.3 million in 2023.

Isaiah Wynn, Miami Dolphins

A 2018 first-round pick – two selections after the Bengals took Billy Price – Wynn played left and right tackle for the Patriots from 2019-22, making 47 starts. He signed a one-year deal in 2023 with the Dolphins, who moved him to right guard.

Wynn started the first seven games and did not allow a sack, but he suffered a season-ending quad injury that could delay his availability and affect his market value in free agency.

He could be an inexpensive, low-risk option while coming with the added benefit of position versatility.

Charlie Heck, Houston Texans

Another guard/tackle tweener, Heck was a fourth-round pick in 2020 and has made 21 starts in four seasons, 13 of which were in 2021. So, he’s comfortable in the backup role.

He’s the son of Andy Heck, who logged 164 starts across 12 NFL seasons, which bodes well for his grasp of offensive philosophies and positional techniques.

KEEP READING: 2024 Free Agents by Position

Like the others on this list, Heck should command an affordable salary.

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