Bengals might prefer a Laken Tomlinson over a Terron Armstead, Brandon Scherff

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Bengals might prefer a Laken Tomlinson over a Terron Armstead, Brandon Scherff
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It’s understandable Cincinnati Bengals fans might want the team to be in on free agency’s biggest offensive linemen names in order to fix Joe Burrow’s line.

On paper, that would mean gunning after an offensive tackle like Terron Armstead of the Saints or a big-time guard like Brandon Scherff of the Commanders.

But the reality is the team is probably thinking something more along the lines of 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson.

We can drum up this line of thinking based on the long-running behavior of the franchise, not to mention recent quotes from names like director of player personnel Duke Tobin.

At the combine, Tobin dropped a telling note about what they look for when they spend big cash: “Trey Hendrickson. If you are going to pay him that much, make sure he is worth it or at least he has the ability to be worth it. He was.”

Two factors there — age and availability. When the team signed Hendrickson, he was just 26, had a good recent attendance/health track record and the upside to perform even better after signing, which he did.

Now look at the two of the market’s biggest names:

  • Terron Armstead: Will be 31 in July, played in just eight games last year, has never played a full season since 2013 and will command top tackle money.

  • Brandon Scherff: Going into his age-31 season, hasn’t appeared in more than 13 games in a season since 2016 and will look for top guard money.

Now look at somebody who fits more in line with Cincinnati’s usual line of thinking:

  • Laken Tomlinson: Just turned 30, has missed just one game since entering the league in 2015 and won’t get a market-resetting deal.

With Tomlinson, they’re looking at someone who has projectable upside for at least a few more years (just two sacks allowed last year over 1,094 snaps), a proven ability to stay on the field and a cost that could enable them to use more money to improve another position with an additional signing.

Keep in mind the Bengals got proof of concept last year with how well the Hendrickson signing worked out. Ditto for spending big on D.J. Reader. Trae Waynes was the big exception, but more often than not, this approach has worked out well when they’ve decided to spend big.

So going into free agency, keep in mind the philosophy and recall that the bigger name isn’t always better, nor a sign of the team’s effort to improve.

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