Antonio Bryant will be seen by the national media as the top acquisition for the Cincinnati Bengals during free agency. Fans of the defending AFC North champions realize two more signings were far more important for the upcoming 2010 season: the re-signing of offensive guard Bobbie Williams and center Ryan Cook.
They played a major role in the Bengals' running backs setting a franchise record with eight 100-yard performances and look to continue that same success for the upcoming 2010 season.
Last week, Williams reached a two-year agreement with the Bengals to bring him back for his seventh season in Cincinnati. He hasn't missed a start in three seasons, and played a key role in the drastically improved offensive line last season.
Williams joined the Bengals in 2004 after a four-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. He's started 93 of 96 regular season games in six years with Cincinnati, and his signing was arguably the team's top priority entering the offseason.
Cook, on the other hand, may turn out to be a steal for the Bengals if he carries over his success at center from last season. After signing to the team's practice squad in 2007 following his release from the Minnesota Vikings, Cook won the starting job at center during training camp, and played all 16 games for Cincinnati last season.
He's young, has potential, and was a key member in the success of the offensive line last season.
Cook signed a one-year tender with the Bengals this week, and if he finds success for the second straight season, a long-term deal could be in place for him following next season.
Offenslive lineman never fully receive the credit they deserve when it comes to doing their job opening the space for the ground game or protecting their quarterbacks—which is why most football fans outside of Cincinnati may not be as familiar with Williams or Cook.
The Bengals and their fans realize how important these recent signings are to the success of the offense in 2010. Last season, Cincinnati went from being a pass-happy team to a squad that heavily relies on the success of the running game.
Without Williams or Cook, the argument can be made that the Bengals would never have established themselves as a threat in the AFC North. Now that both players are officially set to return next season, Cincinnati should be just as dangerous, and will contain just as strong of a unit in the offensive line—if not better.
Dan Parzych is the Cincinnati Bengals Examiner for Examiner.com.
He is also the founder of WhoDeyBengals.com.
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