Williams’ signing leaves Cincy’s line intact

Bobbie Williams’ laughter filled the locker room after a workout

on Wednesday, reminding everyone within earshot that the Cincinnati

Bengals have taken a big step forward on offense.

They signed the right guard to a two-year contract this week,

keeping the offensive line intact from last season’s playoff run.

The move delighted Williams, who at age 33 is the line’s senior

member and wanted to stay for at least one more season.

“I made it well-known that I wanted to be back,” said

Williams, who was an unrestricted free agent. “We knew it was

going to happen.”

The offensive line was one of the biggest questions heading into

last season. Williams was the only starter lining up at the same

position, with everyone else moving around after the team

jettisoned left tackle Levi Jones and center Eric Ghiaciuc.

The plans had to be changed again after top draft pick Andre

Smith held out and then broke his left foot on Sept. 1, forcing the

right tackle to miss most of the season. Smith is expected to start

next to Williams this season.

Despite all the shuffling, the line played well enough to get

the Bengals into the playoffs for only the second time since 1991.

They ran the table against division opponents in the AFC North,

finished 10-6 and lost to the Jets in their first playoff game.

“Last year, everybody was saying there was no continuity with

the group and that was a big concern outside this locker room,”

quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Now that group has played

together and played successfully together and won big games and ran

the ball on good defenses.

“They have another year under their belt with each other. We’re

only going to get better up front from here on out.”

The Bengals went to a run-first philosophy last season, and

finished ninth in the league with an average of 128.5 yards per

game. The passing game was far less effective, finishing 26th out

of 32 teams. Cincinnati released receiver Laveranues Coles after

only one season and signed free agent Antonio Bryant as his

replacement.

The line helped Bengals’ running backs have eight 100-yard

games, a franchise record. The Bengals kept the line together by

re-signing center Kyle Cook and Williams within a one-week

span.

“It’s very important,” Williams said. “I felt we did a pretty

good job last year, being the first time together. Establishing

some continuity on that offensive line is crucial. It’s important

to the success that we’re trying to keep going and build on

here.”

While negotiations on Williams’ contract stretched on, Palmer

texted him to find out what was going on. Veterans wanted him to

stay because they thought his experience – and his personality –

were needed on one of the NFL’s youngest rosters.

“He’s played in so many games, been around so long, played

against every defensive front, played against every lineman in the

league,” Palmer said. “And just the attitude he brings.

“He’s one of the most fun guys I’ve had the opportunity to play

with. Day in and day out, he’s smiling and he’s laughing. But when

it gets time to work, he’s there to push people around and move

people. That’s what he does best.”