Bengals add OL

Published 1:50 am Friday, March 13, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — With their linebacker situation improved by the addition of free agent A.J. Hawk, the Bengals moved on to their offensive line, signing guard Clint Boling and tackle Eric Winston to deals that keep the unit intact.

Hawk got a two-year deal from the team that he rooted for as a youngster. The nine-year veteran grew up in southwest Ohio and attended Bengals games at Riverfront Stadium before playing at Ohio State. Hawk played two games in Cincinnati when he was with the Green Bay Packers.

“To hear people say I’m on the Bengals is weird,” said Hawk, who grew up in Centerville, Ohio. “Obviously it’s something I kind of thought about in the back of my mind the whole time, even in Green Bay. I figured once they were done with me, it would be a dream to come back here. Now it’s reality.”

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Hawk was in the locker room on Wednesday after signing his deal, which solidifies one of Cincinnati’s problem areas. The defense struggled last season after linebackers Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict got hurt, slipping from third to 22nd in the NFL in yards allowed.

Maualuga, who missed four games last season with a pulled hamstring, avoided free agency by agreeing to a three-year deal last week. Burfict missed most of last season with concussions and torn knee cartilage, and is coming off two knee operations, leaving his status uncertain.

“We’ve been able to gain some veteran guys who have played at a high level, who bring both their playmaking and their leadership and really a commitment to the game,” coach Marvin Lewis said, standing a few feet away from Hawk.

“When you add a guy with his experience and then bring more young guys in, they see that. They’re great mentors for those guys.”

The Bengals made it a priority to keep Boling, whose became a free agent on Tuesday. Boling has started 44 games over the past three seasons and wanted to stay with the Bengals, who have reached the playoffs four straight seasons only to lose their opening game each time.

Boling got a five-year deal that keeps the offensive line intact.

“We’ve had four playoff runs in a row,” Boling said. “Obviously we haven’t been able to get past that first round, but I think we have something pretty special here. I definitely think we have a chance to make a run, whether it’s this year or in the next five years.”

The Bengals also signed right tackle Eric Winston to a one-year deal. Winston sat out most of last season when no team was interested and considered retirement, but the Bengals signed him after Andre Smith got hurt. Winston started the final three games.

Cincinnati also signed third-year cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, who had been tendered by the club as an exclusive rights free agent. Lewis-Harris is primarily a special teams player.


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