Who Might Replace Jonah Williams? One Name Has Already Emerged for the Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals should be exploring all possible options to replace right tackle Jonah Williams, who is set to leave in free agency.

CINCINNATI — With right tackle Jonah Williams’ departure imminent, the Cincinnati Bengals are in the market for a replacement. And they might not need to wait until the green flag drops on free agency in four weeks.

The Pittsburgh Steelers began shaving costs Monday by cutting three players, including tackle Chukwuma Okorafor.

A third-round pick in 2018, Okorafor started 48 of 50 games for the Steelers from 2020-2022 and the first seven games this season before getting benched for rookie Broderick Jones. He questioned the offensive play-calling, which was an obvious issue and led to offensive coordinator Matt Canada being fired two weeks later.

Bengals Free To Negotiate With Chukwuma Okorafor After Release

Okorafor signed a three-year, $29.3 million contract with the Steelers in May 2022. Pittsburgh saved $8.8 by cutting him as part of the trio of moves that also included releasing backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky and punter Pressley Harvin.

The Bengals, or any other team, are free to sign Okorafor any time before the start of the new league year on March 13.

The team is also free to sign Williams, the first draft pick of the Zac Taylor era — the No. 9 selection in 2019 — at any time as well, whereas he can’t negotiate with other teams until March 11.

But it would arguably be the biggest surprise in franchise history if Williams was back with the Bengals in 2024. He requested a trade after the team signed Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency last year, forcing Williams to switch from left tackle to right tackle. He voiced further frustration with the front office for the way it handled the situation.

Williams made the switch and played well enough to price himself out of Cincinnati’s future, although he sounded as if the organization’s plans were moot in his mind when he spoke with reporters the day after the season ended.

He didn’t come out and say he wanted to go elsewhere, but Williams spent much of the conversation talking in the past tense.

“I gave my all,” Williams said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m proud of what we built here and appreciative of the opportunity.”

The interest the Bengals have in Okorafor no doubt will be tied to his salary demands.

Okorafor has been a mid- to lower-level tackle according to Pro Football Focus, but he’s better than any of the options Cincinnati currently has on the roster: Cody Ford, D’Ante Smith, Jackson Carman.

PFF graded Okorafor as the 49th tackle in 2022, his last full season as a starter. He was 40th in 2021 and 45th in 2020.

MORE: When Does 2024 NFL Free Agency Start?

The plan forward would appear to be signing a veteran bridge tackle in addition to drafting one – or two – in April.

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