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Expected starters:

LT: Jonah Williams
LG: Quentin Spain
C : Trey Hopkins (if back in time)
RG: Jackson Carman
RT: Riley Reiff

Virtual locks to make the roster:

LG/RG: Xavier Su'a-Fila
OT: Hakeem Adeniji
OT: D'Ante Smith

Likely to make the roster

C/G: Billy Price

That's eight players that will make up the either nine or ten players that will be on the 53 man roster for the offensive line.  Whether Hopkins is ready for the start of the season still seems to be very much in doubt, which is a big reason why I include Billy Price as likely to make the roster.  Price was a pick when Pollack was here the first time, he has played better at center than he has at guard, and with the increased depth this year, he likely only needs to play center.  I consider XSF and Adeniji virtual locks as the brass was high on XSF going into last year before he was unfortunately injured early on.  It's not inconceivable that XSF beats out Spain for the starting LG spot, and I very much like that we will have a camp battle between two viable options and will still have IOL depth no matter who wins that battle.  My money is on Spain though, he was impressive after we picked him up from Buffalo.  A change of scenery may have been what he needed.  Adeniji showed some promise last year, but also played like you would expect a developmental rookie to play at times too. I would be shocked if they don't give him more time.  As a freshly picked 4th rd pick hand selected by the new offensive line coach, D'Ante Smith would have to literally sabotage himself to not make the team this year. So that leaves three big questions heading into the 2021 season.

  1. Will Trey Hopkins be ready to start the season?
  2. Will the Bengals keep nine or ten offensive linemen?
  3. If the top nine is that likely, who would win the last spot if they do keep ten?

Trey Hopkins graded out as an average to slightly below average center last year, but that doesn't quite tell the whole story. The guard play on either side of him was a literal dumpster fire last year, with Xavier Su'a-Fila getting hurt very early and most of the other options not providing much relief with Michael Jordan, Alex Redmond, the failed Fred Johnson at G experiment, and Quentin Spain playing out of position at RG or RT most of his time here when he had been a LG in his career to that point.  I think Trey can be an average to above average C again if he can just get competent guard play around him, but before that can happen, he needs to get healthy.  Tearing his ACL in week 17, his readiness for the season is in doubt.  That's a major injury and it happened in the Bengals last game of the year, meaning he is only a little over 4 months into his recovery even now as we are approaching mini-camps.  He'll be almost 8 months removed from the injury when training camp starts, but I think it's likely that he isn't 100% ready at that point.  If he isn't ready for the season, then the three options are to carry him injured on the 53 man (highly unlikely with the roster crunch we expect this year), he starts the year on the PUP list (keeping him out for the first 6 games), or starts the year on the IR-Return list (keeping him out for the first 8 games).  I guess we see him on the PUP list, which will put him out for 6 weeks, has Price start at C, and Trey Hill as his backup.

Most years the Bengals will keep no more than nine offensive linemen, and in some years they might try to skate by with eight.  I think that eight is definitely out of the question given the injury issues the Bengals have had over the past couple years. So the question is whether nine is still the cap, or will they make an exception this year because of that injury question, coupled with possibly up to three rookie linemen making the team.   I actually think they will stretch and go for 10 this year, at least to start the season.  With Hopkins missing the start of the year, Hill will be the backup C to Price, and I'm not sure if he's the one they will want to expose to waivers to get him to the practice squad.  With 3 rookies on the roster (Carman, Smith, and Hill) and multiple players who had injuries last year (Hopkins, Williams, XSF) I think they will want to both play it safe and protect the young talent they have.

Next, we need to look at who is battling for that last roster spot.  Even with the newer roster rules allowing up to 55, those last two can only be elevated from the practice squad a day or two before the game, so for all intents and purposes, it's still the same 53 man roster.

  • Trey Hill, C - A new draft pick, but a 6th rd pick is no guarantee to make the roster.  However, if Hopkins starts the year on the PUP or the IR, then Hill has the inside track to being the backup center. It would almost be assured unless they sign another FA center if they are positive Hopkins will be out for the start of the season, which seems somewhat likely based on reports.
     
  • Michael Jordan, G - The former fourth rd pick who the Bengals were high on when they took has been given literally every opportunity to take a starting job, and has been extremely underwhelming.  Disliked by fans for being part of the dumpster fire line that got Burrow hurt, and poorly graded by most every metric available, I think Jordan has long odds to make the team, but you can't count him out if the coaching staff still sees what they liked about him when they drafted him.
     
  • Keaton Sutherland, G - Sutherland has been with the Bengals parts of the last two seasons, but has barely played.  Almost a certianty that he goes back to the practice squad unless there are several injuries.
     
  • Fred Johnson, T/G? - If Fred Johnson is to win that last spot, it is almost certainly going to be as a swing tackle only.  They tried the big man at guard last year after he showed some promise in 2019 at OT and the results were disasterous.  Johnson and his length are built for the edge, so he will have to show head and shoulders better than Adeniji to be assured a roster spot, especially with D'Ante Smith likely to make it, even if he is stashed for development most of this year.
     
  • Isaiah Prince, T - Prince was signed as depth last year after a litany of injuries decimated the Bengals offensive line and they just needed some bodies.  If he has practice squad eligibility, then Prince may hang around the organization, but I think he is the longest shot on the list to make the line.

So what will the Bengals offensive line shake out as in 2021.  I think with Hopkins on the PUP list, the 10th spot will go to Fred Johnson, but to be purely used as a swing tackle and not in the interior at all.  Adeniji will be their versatile player playing four spots on the line, XSF as the first reserve guard for either side, and I think we see Smith and Hill as mostly developmental guys this year who may not see the field much.  Once Hopkins returns from the PUP I think Fred Johnson is the most likely to go at that point, with Adeniji moving to more of a swing tackle role if needed with the better interior offensive line depth this year.

  1. Jonah Williams: LT only
  2. Riley Reiff: RT, backup LT
  3. Jackson Carman: RG only this year
  4. Quentin Spain: LG only
  5. Billy Price: Starting C to begin the season, reserve C once Hopkins is back
  6. Xavier Su'a-Fila: Primary backup for LG and RG
  7. Hakeem Adeniji: Everywhere but C, compete with Fred Johnson for backup RT
  8. Trey Hill: Backup C only, move to development role when Hopkins is back
  9. D'Ante Smith: Development role this year, emergency back swing tackle, likely doesn't dress most games
  10. Fred Johnson: Swing tackle backup competing with Adeniji, likely cut once Hopkins returns

That's how I see the Bengals 2021 offensive line shaking out.  While it isn't quite everything we could have had drafting Penei Sewell, I think the prospect is well enough to be close to a league average offensive line this year that allowed us to add a playmaker like Ja'Marr Chase.  I think they go heavy to protect some depth and development, and I still think a RT is a day 1 or 2 focus in the 2022 draft.

 

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Depending on how Trey Hill performs in camp, Price is a sneaky pick to get cut.  Not highly likely, but it could happen.

If he doesn't, i think they keep 9 (your 8, plus Hill), and cut the rest.  Sutherland and Prince goes to the PS.  I think the Michael Jordan experiment is over.  Too many new draft picks.

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13 minutes ago, theJ said:

Oh i can't count.  If they keep Price, that's 10.

 

I think it'll be 9.  Someone tries to get passed to the PS.

That's what I thought at first too, but given the three rookies and recent injury history, that's why I think it gets to 10. Not sure how much we should expect from D'Ante Smith and Trey Hill this year.  If they go with 9, then it could be either cutting Price, or trying to get Hill onto the PS.

The only way Price gets cut is if Hopkins is back and 100% to start the year.  He may not be great, but he's still relatively cheap, he's experienced, and he has experience with Pollack on the Bengals.

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12 minutes ago, THE DUKE said:

That's what I thought at first too, but given the three rookies and recent injury history, that's why I think it gets to 10. Not sure how much we should expect from D'Ante Smith and Trey Hill this year.  If they go with 9, then it could be either cutting Price, or trying to get Hill onto the PS.

The only way Price gets cut is if Hopkins is back and 100% to start the year.  He may not be great, but he's still relatively cheap, he's experienced, and he has experience with Pollack on the Bengals.

There's really a lot to sort through.  I  really only would guarantee Williams, Rieff and Carman making the roster. Beyond that, between Hopkins injuries, youth and potentially XSF and Spain looking at maybe a one or the other situation, there can be many potential variations. 

Price only gets cut if Hopkins is 100% and Hill is ready to be backup.  I think most likely price starts and Hill goes to the practice squad after Hopkins is healthy. Price is not good at guard, but seems fairly equal to Hopkins at center.

So just looking at tiers:

Starters-Williams, Carman, Rieff

Likely Starters-XSF/Spain, Price/Hopkins

Reserves- XSF/Spain, Price/Hill

Likely Reserves-Adenji, Smith

Practice Squad-Hill

Likely Cut-Jordan, Johnson 

Definitely Cut-Sutherland, Prince

So alot will depend on how comfortable they are with the young developmental tackles going into the year. If they don't think they're ready to contribute at tackle. Johnson might make it. If they are worried about guard, maybe Jordan gets a chance. After looking closely,  I think they have to keep whoever isn't starting out of XSF and Spain.  There aren't any other not bad options there.

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A lot to sort through for sure.

 

One, I think they only keep 3 TEs, which allows the 10 OL.

Then the locks are Jonah, carmen and Reiff.

I would bet on Hopkins starting on PUP.  They can ride that for 6-12 weeks before they have to make a final decision.  Price starts, Hill backs him up.  Hill is my starter for 2022 and beyond, so they aren't exposing him to waivers.  Does IR revert to previous rules, a+or can guys yoyo back after three weeks?

Spain is a starter, barring injury

Starting 5   Jonah-Spain-Price-Carman-Reiff

They will keep 2 true backup tackles.  With two recently drafted players in Smith and Adeniji, I think Johnson's days are numbered, but wouldn't bet against the injury bug taking a guy like Smith out for the year in the old Marvin redshirt model.  Or maybe they think they can slide Smith to the PS.

Prince is toast.  Sutherland is toast.  No reason to keep either on the PS, unless no one else \makes it there either at OT.  

The battle between Jordan and XSF will be interesting.  One has sucked his whole time here.  The other was a Turner guy brought in for locker room stability.  It shouild mean he's safe over Jordan, but Jordan is still moldable, so I don't think it's that cut and dry.  Throw in the salary disparity, and I don't think the door has closed on Jordan here.  Maybe he lands on the PS.  Or maybe he sticks if they need cap space for the eventual Bates/Hubbard extensions.  For now, let's say Jordan ends up on the PS.

 

If I had to make the roster now, I keep 10, with the five backups being Hill, Adeniji, Smith, XSF and either Jordan or Johnson, and gun to the head, I guess Jordan, only for being on two years of contract.  If they think Jordan makes the PS, then Johnson is a better player and they go that route.

 

 

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14 minutes ago, INbengalfan said:

One, I think they only keep 3 TEs, which allows the 10 OL.

Agreed, i'll be surprised if we have more than 3.

14 minutes ago, INbengalfan said:

Hill is my starter for 2022 and beyond, so they aren't exposing him to waivers.

For a 6th rd pick that seems very best case scenario, but I like the optimism.  I do agree that I don't think they will want to expose him to waivers.

16 minutes ago, INbengalfan said:

Prince is toast.  Sutherland is toast.  No reason to keep either on the PS, unless no one else \makes it there either at OT.  

I think you can have like 15 guys on the PS now, so I won't be surprised if we have 3 OL on there.

17 minutes ago, INbengalfan said:

It shouild mean he's safe over Jordan, but Jordan is still moldable, so I don't think it's that cut and dry.

That's a point I hadn't thought of.  My thoughts were Fred stays and Jordan goes since I expect D'Ante to be a healthy scratch most weeks and stashed on the 53 man for strength gaining and development for next year.  I bet Jordan can make it to the PS too.

20 minutes ago, INbengalfan said:

If they think Jordan makes the PS, then Johnson is a better player and they go that route.

We're pretty much in line with this, with this being what I think happens.

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Price has a fully guaranteed contract as a former 1st round pick so I doubt they cut him. He probably has offset language though if he is cut. Agree Hopkins probably starts on PUP. His injury came in an NFL game so he might have to go to IR instead. Agree it's likely the team keeps 10 on the O-line. We aren't going to carry 7 WRs again so that might be the cut instead of TE, depending on preseason. If the league uses the same roster and PS rules as last year, we can activate an extra O-lineman on Sundays and carry a vet or two on the PS. 

 

Spain seems like a lock to make the roster, along with Williams, Reiff, and Carman. 

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18 minutes ago, sparky151 said:

Price has a fully guaranteed contract as a former 1st round pick so I doubt they cut him. He probably has offset language though if he is cut. Agree Hopkins probably starts on PUP. His injury came in an NFL game so he might have to go to IR instead. Agree it's likely the team keeps 10 on the O-line. We aren't going to carry 7 WRs again so that might be the cut instead of TE, depending on preseason. If the league uses the same roster and PS rules as last year, we can activate an extra O-lineman on Sundays and carry a vet or two on the PS. 

 

Spain seems like a lock to make the roster, along with Williams, Reiff, and Carman. 

It was last year though, so it doesn't carry over with IR.  He lands on PUP if he can't pass the physical when camp opens, not IR (in a carryover way, if that makes sense).

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52 minutes ago, sparky151 said:

We aren't going to carry 7 WRs again so that might be the cut instead of TE, depending on preseason

I won't be surprised if we do 6 WR and 3 TE's.  Easy enough to stash a 7th WR and 4th TE on the PS.  I think they will make room for OL and DL for depth reasons, and then at least 6 LB for special teams reasons.  I could legit see us carry 10 OL and 10 DL this year.

OL: Williams, Reiff, Carman, Spain, Price, XSF, Adeniji, Hill, Smith, Johnson (cut for Hopkins)
DL: Hendrickson, Hubbard, Ossai, Sample, Kareem, Reader, Shelvin, Ogunjobi, Daniels, one of Tupou/Wren

The fringe being Johnson cut to get the OL to 9, and then trying to get Hill to the PS once Hopkins is back
The fringe for DL being not keeping either of Tupou or Wren, or maybe trying to get Kareem to the PS.

Maybe i'll do my next deep dive on the D-Line, some interesting questions there too. I just want to see a 3 man front in a 3-4 look with Reader and Tupou at 5 tech, with Shelvin at the nose.  350, 345, 350, lol.

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1 hour ago, sparky151 said:

Price has a fully guaranteed contract as a former 1st round pick so I doubt they cut him. He probably has offset language though if he is cut. Agree Hopkins probably starts on PUP. His injury came in an NFL game so he might have to go to IR instead. Agree it's likely the team keeps 10 on the O-line. We aren't going to carry 7 WRs again so that might be the cut instead of TE, depending on preseason. If the league uses the same roster and PS rules as last year, we can activate an extra O-lineman on Sundays and carry a vet or two on the PS. 

 

Spain seems like a lock to make the roster, along with Williams, Reiff, and Carman. 

There is some cap savings by cutting Price.  But it's small.  As a later 1st round pick, it's a small contract.  

I think in all likelihood there's an injury that will allow them to not have to make a difficult decision.  But if Hopkins is healthy, and Hill looks legit, Price is extraneous.  He's a lame duck anyway.

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Cap savings for what though?  Unless we start handing out multiple extensions with serious front end money pushed into 2021, we're going to have more than enough cap space.  Could try to get Bates on a 5 year deal with something stupid big like a $20 million roster bonus this year to lower his cap number for the next 5 years by $4 million a year.

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Don’t forget about that practice squad rule of being able to call up 2 players per game, we will see if that stays.

 

I have the same starting lineup prediction as you guys. I think Hopkins starts the season on PUP, and if Price improves I could honestly see them cutting Hopkins and moving forward with Price and Hill. Remember Pollack drafted Price. 
 

it honestly will be interesting to see what happens with Mike Jordan. He is still so young and it really wasn’t fair for them to throw him into the fire so soon. 

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15 hours ago, THE DUKE said:

Cap savings for what though?  Unless we start handing out multiple extensions with serious front end money pushed into 2021, we're going to have more than enough cap space.  Could try to get Bates on a 5 year deal with something stupid big like a $20 million roster bonus this year to lower his cap number for the next 5 years by $4 million a year.

I was just pointing out that there is a savings, since @sparky151 said there's no savings.  If they cut Price, it's because there's no use for him.  Not because of money.

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