Big Offensive Question Marks Remain For Bengals

Dari LasmaContributor IMay 9, 2009

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 1:  First round draft pick Andre Smith #7 (R) of the Cincinnati Bengals battles with teammate Ryan Madison #61 during rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 1, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images)

No other offseason in this decade has seen more free agency and draft selections by a Bengals team, but there are still uncertainties Marvin Lewis and the Brown family need to address.

The Bengals chose to allow right tackle Stacy Andrews and center Eric Ghiacuic to enter free agency and cut ties with left tackle Levi Jones last week. Those vacancies will presumably be filled by the two rookies Andre Smith and Jonathan Luigs and a one-year veteran Anthony Collins.

The new guys look good on paper but they are untested by NFL standards as Collins is the only one with any experience with six starts.

It's hardly the ideal situation after a season where the Bengals offensive line was 28th in the league in sacks allowed and finished last in overall offense.

Never had it been so clear how important Carson Palmer is to the success of this offense than after the loss in the Meadowlands in week three.

The inability to keep Carson clean left him sporting a clipboard and headset from the sidelines for 12 weeks and saw the offense average about 150 passing yards per game.

The flurry of activity in this off-season has seen the Bengals improve the defensive line, wide receiver, running back, and safety positions but no veteran help has been acquired to bolster depth along the offensive line.

After the spending spree of $15 million in the first week of free agency and the later signings of Tank Johnson and Roy Williams, the Bengals are presumably tight against the cap with the typical $6.6 million set aside for rookies and $5 million for injuries and incentives.

The chances of the Brown family finding the financial wiggle room to sign free agent linemen like George Foster, Seth McKinney, or Ephraim Salaam are slim, so it seems the Bengals will be rolling the dice on their rookies capability and health.

Not only is Palmer's health riding on the offensive line's youth movement, so are the jobs of Marvin Lewis, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, and offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

This coaching staff is unlikely to survive another four-win season after a widely praised draft and once-in-a-decade free agency splurge.