NFL Free Agency: Cincinnati Bengals wisely go for quality and quantity on O-line

The Bengals spent a moderate amount for two guards: Ted Karras and Alex Cappa. And they’re better because of it.

In the end, the Cincinnati Bengals really couldn’t have afforded Brandon Scherff if they wanted a complete offensive line. Instead of spending huge for one guard (which the Jacksonville Jaguars did), they spent a moderate amount for two guards: Ted Karras and Alex Cappa. And they’re better because of it.

Cincinnati Bengals’ new-look offensive line much improved with Ted Karras and Alex Cappa

Two hours into free agency, the Bengals twice addressed their most glaring and obvious need. They locked down Cappa, a right guard previously of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for $40 million over four years. An hour or so later, news broke that they added versatile interior lineman Karras — one of PFN’s seven best under-the-radar free agents — at $6 million AAV.

And in the blink of an eye, arguably the league’s worst offensive line got a whole lot better.

Including the postseason, the Bengals allowed a league-worst 3.5 sacks per game. Joe Burrow entered the offseason recovering from a knee injury for the second time in as many years. And with a world championship at stake in Los Angeles, the pass protection collapsed like an old shed.

There was no way the Bengals could go into 2022 without significantly improving their pass protection, which ranked 30th out of 32 teams in win rate. But they had financial restrictions and were strategic with how they spent.

Getting two B/B-plus starters at a total of $16 million per season is a win

So goodbye, Quinton Spain, who enters free agency as a projected backup. Head to the bench, Jackson Carman, who struggled as a rookie. Carman will be, at best, the Bengals’ No. 7 offensive lineman in 2022. And Burrow will be better because of it.

The Bengals allowed a combined 70 sacks in the regular and postseasons last year. Karras and Cappa allowed a combined 8 sacks in over 2,000 snaps. They might not be Pro Bowlers — but simply competent is a quantum leap forward.

Issues still remain at tackle, particularly on the right side. But the Bengals can now feel confident that they can get that fixed, too. It’ll either be in the second wave of free agency or, more likely, the 2022 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, the AFC champions got better on the first day of free agency.

Adam Beasley is the NFL Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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