- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Cincinnati shouldn't have to deal with this downgrade in experience. A few weeks before the draft, the Bengals signed Jacob Bell, an eight-year veteran. But Bell retired 32 days after signing a one-year, $890,000 deal (included $65,000 signing bonus) with the Bengals. He said he walked away from the game because of the fear of long-term heath risks, but his decision also came shortly after Cincinnati drafted Kevin Zeitler in the first round (meaning Bell would be a backup).
In hindsight, the Bengals had the right instinct in adding experienced depth at guard. They just didn't foresee such a run of bad luck at that spot. So instead of having Bell, who has started 100 career games in the NFL, the Bengals will turn to Boling, who has three career starts.
The Bengals are fortunate that Boling has been improving. He's a different lineman since last season, when he got overpowered by defensive linemen. The biggest adjustment has been getting his pad level down.
Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden insinuated that Boling's strong camp had the starting left guard job up in the air.
“Boling was doing very well. In fact, we had yet to set it as far who’s where," Gruden told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We’re just taking these games and putting everybody in different spots and taking a look at them, and try to find the best group. Unfortunately Travelle, he’s out. But he was doing good things also. But now Clint is going to have to step up and be that guy.”
The season-ending knee injury to left guard Travelle Wharton means the Bengals will go from a nine-year veteran to Clint Boling, a fourth-round pick from a year ago.