The Cincinnati coaching staff and fans watched Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow get sacked 70 times during the regular season, and 16 times in the playoffs.
And that includes the NINE times Burrow was brought down behind the line of scrimmage in the AFC Divisional Championship against Tennessee … and the Bengals still won the game!
Holy Big Ben Batman (Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 554 in his career – the most in NFL history.)
Burrow had the third-most sacks of any QB in league history in one season.
And still Cincinnati was about four seconds away from winning Super Bowl LVI before Burrow succumbed to pressure on the final play.
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase had beaten his defender and was sprinting toward the end zone.
But Burrow did not have enough time to find the NFL Rookie of the Year, and the team fell to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20.
It’s no secret that the team needs to focus on the offensive line in the offseason.
In the past two NFL drafts, Cincinnati loaded up the defensive side of the ball and spent massive amounts of money.
The team brought in Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader.
Now it’s time to protect Burrow.
And it looks like Bengals’ brass has made that a priority.
After all, they don’t want Joey Franchise to come close to breaking Roethlisberger’s sack record.
And what a move the team made!
According to reports, free agent offensive tackle La’el Collins will anchor down one side of the offensive line.
Collins was cut by the Dallas Cowboys, and signed a three-year deal with Cincinnati on Sunday.
The 28-year-old tackle is considered one of the best at his position, and will likely be the team’s starting right tackle next season.
He was suspended for five games in 2021 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy concerning a missed drug test.
According to ESPN, he was suspended and accused of bribing a drug-test collector for the league.
This is still monumental news for the Bengals.
The team also released center Trey Hopkins, who apparently saw the handwriting on the wall each time Burrow was sacked.
On Friday, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor announced that Ted Karras has been inked to replace Hopkins at center.
Cincinnati saves about $6 million in cap space with the release of Hopkins, as Karras played for New England last season.
Hopkins was brought into the Queen City in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, but did not become a starter until 2016.
He spent two seasons on the practice squad, and was a success story for the Bengals getting a solid player as an undrafted free agent.
He tore his ACL toward the end of the 2020 season, and was hampered by the injury in 2021.
In other moves last week, the Bengals:
1. Signed offensive guard Alex Cappa to a four-year deal through the 2025 season. He was a third-round NFL Draft pick in 2018 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He spent four years in Tampa and played in 52 games with 46 starts. He also won a Super Bowl ring and protected Tom Brady. In fact, convincing him to sign despite Brady’s return was a huge win for the Bengals. Cappa along with Karras should bolster the team’s offensive line.
2. Inked tight end Hayden Hurst to a one-year deal and has a shot to replace C.J. Uzomah, who decided to sign with the New York Jets. Hurst was a first-round selection in 2018 by the Baltimore Ravens. He spent two seasons there and then headed to Atlanta. In his career, he has 125 catches for 1,304 yards and a dozen touchdowns. While Uzomah was a fan-favorite, now Hurst will compete with Drew Sample for the starting spot at tight end.
3. Re-signed wide receiver Mike Thomas to a one-year contract for 2022. The Southern Mississippi product was a sixth-round pick in 2016 by the Los Angeles Rams, where he spent his first four seasons. He joined Cincinnati in 2020 and has played in 26 games with 18 catches for 184 yards and one TD.
4. Re-signed backup quarterback Brandon Allen to a one-year deal. He was drafted by Jacksonville in 2016 in the sixth-round and has also played for the Rams and Denver. The Bengals brought him to town in 2020, and he has played in 11 games with six starts — with 107 completions for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In other news, the Bengals put the franchise tag on safety Jessie Bates, who made some big plays during the playoff run to Super Bowl LVI.
A long-term deal is still in the works for the former second-round pick, but he has not reached an agreement yet.
These are just a few things that took place last week.
They have youth.
They are hungry to win.
They have a plethora of talent.
The team has a gifted and gutsy quarterback and a confident receiving core.
They also have one of the best kickers in the league in Evan McPherson, and strong linebackers on defense.
For the first time in years, the Queen City might be the place to go if you are a free agent player in the NFL.