Monday, March 22, 2021

Grading the Deal: Bengals Sign Veteran Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff



UPDATED: MAR 20, 2021

ORIGINAL: MAR 20, 2021

CINCINNATI — Protecting Joe Burrow is the number one priority for the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason. They took the first step in achieving that goal on Friday by signing offensive tackle Riley Reiff. Cincinnati wined and dined the mauler, who many pegged as the best offensive lineman remaining on the market. 

Reiff appears ready to help this franchise anyway he can, citing Burrow as a big reason why he chose the Bengals. 

"I walked away from eating that steak and was like I wanna play and block for this guy," Reiff said during his introductory press conference. "Just the way he conducts himself. Carries himself. Seems like a down-to-Earth Cincinnati-type guy. We just sat there crapped around a little bit. But really impressed with him."

The former-Vikings stalwart at left tackle gives fans hope that outside protection issues are in the rear-view mirror after dragging the team down for so long.

Grade: A

Positional Impact: Reiff is penciled in as the starting right tackle. Bobby Hart has held that job for three seasons, but was released after the Bengals closed the deal with Reiff. The Iowa-product is a massive positional upgrade. Reiff is very durable, having played 800-plus snaps in four of the past five seasons. The 32-year-old has earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 69 or better in all but one of his nine seasons. Hart’s career-best is 66.3 overall, which he achieved last season.

Reiff allowed 21 pressures and one sack in 2020, while Hart gave up 44 pressures and four sacks.

The Bengals had to establish a baseline of competence at both tackle spots, and signing Reiff achieved that. According to Sports Info Solutions, he earned the 17th-most total points among offensive linemen (min. 950 snaps). 

Reiff's versatility and willingness to move to guard is another benefit. 

"I told them I would play wherever. I am open to anything," Reiff said. "I am just here to protect Joe and win a lot of football games. I played guard in college. Wherever they ask me to play I will step in and play."

Stat To Know: Reiff earned 20 pass-blocking points in 2020, 13th-most among all offensive linemen (min. 520 snaps).

Value: This is my highest grade of free agency so far because Reiff not only fills a need but his contract leaves flexibility for Cincinnati. Reiff reportedly inked a one-year deal worth $7.5M, with $5.5M guaranteed. Hart was paid an average of $6.85 million the past two seasons with Cincinnati. By cutting Hart, the Bengals freed up $5.8 million in cap space, which the team immediately used on Reiff.

That is a sound way to stay cap compliant while upgrading the talent on the team. Reiff gets the chance to continue his solid play and cash in when the market rebounds next offseason. The Bengals had to take advantage of this unusual financial climate, and signing Reiff got the ball rolling. 

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