Help is on the way for Bengals’ Burrow

New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) celebrates his touchdown with New England Patriots guard Ted Karras (67) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) celebrates his touchdown with New England Patriots guard Ted Karras (67) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Cincinnati reportedly signing pair of offensive linemen in free agency

The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t resting on their laurels after making it to the Super Bowl.

On the first day of legal tampering Monday, before free agency officially opens Wednesday, the Bengals showed they aren’t messing around with the health of their franchise quarterback. Reports from NFL insiders indicate the team will be signing at least two new offensive linemen to help protect Joe Burrow after he took 70 sacks over 20 games last season.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bengals are signing Buccaneers free-agent guard Alex Cappa to a four-year, $40 million deal. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport also reported the Bengals will be signing former Patriots left guard Ted Karras on a three-year deal worth $18 million.

Cappa’s contract would double the average annual value of the highest amount the Bengals have ever given to a guard.

Meanwhile, the Bengals are losing defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to the Bears, but they are keeping B.J. Hill, who according to Rapoport will be signing a three-year deal worth $30 million with half of that in year one.

Ogunjobi secured a three-year deal from the Bears worth $40.5 million, including $26.35 million guaranteed. He had signed a one-year prove-it contract with the Bengals last offseason and became a key addition to the team’s much-improved pass rush, providing pressure from the interior where there previously wasn’t much push. Hill also was a big part of that, and it was unlikely the Bengals were going to pay Ogunjobi what he proved worthy of after recording seven sacks in 16 games. He suffered a season-ending foot injury in the opening round of the playoffs and had to watch the run to the Super Bowl from the sidelines.

Hill, who was acquired in a trade that sent Billy Price to the Giants in August, finished with 5.5 sacks in the regular season and 1.5 sacks in four postseason games.

The Bengals are working to improve their offensive line after Burrow took 100 sacks over his first two seasons and ended up spraining his right knee and dislocating his right pinky in a year he was coming back from ACL and MCL tears in his left leg. The right guard position was one that Hakeem Adeniji and rookie Jackson Carman ended up sharing in the AFC Championship game and one of the biggest spots to address this offseason, and Kappas could fill a need at center, where Trey Hopkins struggled in his return from ACL surgery.

A third-round pick in the 2018 draft, Cappa will be entering his fifth NFL season. This is his first big contract after playing under the standard four-year deal given to draft picks outside of the first round. ProFootballFocus.com ranked him as the 56th best free agent for 2022, noting “he’s gotten better each season as he made a huge adjustment to the speed of the NFL game.”

Although Cappa was not one of the Bucs’ three offensive linemen placed in the Pro Bowl, he posted career-highs grades as a pass-blocker (71.4) and run-blocker (71.2) this season, his third as a starter. Cappa started all 19 games, including the playoffs, at right guard and was the only player on the team to be on the field for every one of its 1,328 offensive snaps. He was a key performer on an offensive line that allowed a league-low 23 sacks and led the NFL with a 3.15 percent sacks per pass play rate. Pro Football Focus credited Cappa with allowing only five sacks on the season and committing just one penalty.

Cappa spent his first season in Tampa Bay adjusting to the league in a reserve role before taking over as the starting right guard in 2019. Since then, he has played and started in 46 of 49 possible games, only missing the final three games of the 2020 postseason because of an ankle injury.

Over those three seasons in which Cappa started games, the Buccaneers allowed the seventh-fewest sacks (92), despite having the most passing attempts (1,987) in the league. They ranked first in both gross (312.0) and net passing yards per game (300.0) and were third in total net yards per outing (383.1) during that span.

Karras was a six-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2016, and according to PFF, he allowed three sacks and recorded two penalties in 2021, earning a grade of 72.8. He’s an inexpensive option that has proved to be a capable starter at both center and guard, and he’s coming off a career year in New England in which he ranked seventh among all 36 qualifying left guards in PFF grade.

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