In an effort to shore up the versatility of their offensive line, the Bengals took one of their priorities off the free-agent market Thursday when they agreed to terms with guard-center Mike Pollak.
Agent Ken Zuckerman said he had an agreement with the club, which has yet to be finalized with the signed paperwork. Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported a three-year agreement.
Pollak, who had completed a one-year deal, became a priority with solid play off the bench last season when right guard Kevin Zeitler was lost for a month with a foot injury. With a timetable for the return of left guard Clint Boling from ACL surgery up in the air, center Kyle Cook heading into the offseason banged up from the last two games, and left tackle Anthony Collins unsigned, Pollak had been targeted as a guy that helps them in all three inside spots.
"I don't think there's any question there would have been a market for Mike, but he felt really comfortable playing for Paul," said Zuckerman of Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander. "He likes the fit and Paul's approach and is happy about going back there."
Once Pollak, 29, got rid of the injury bug, he has performed well and is reminding people why the Colts took him in the second round of the 2008 draft out of Arizona State. After signing with the Panthers in 2012, he played just one game with a shoulder injury and missed his first seven games as a Bengal last season when he hurt his knee in the preseason finale.
But in his first three starts the Bengals didn't allow a sack while racking up rushing yards of 106, 164, and 155 in wins over Cleveland, San Diego, and Indianapolis, respectively. One of his five starts came against Minnesota, when the Bengals rolled up 429 yards in a 42-14 victory.
Profootballfocus.com rated Pollak 29th overall among 81 guards and just behind Boling (27) and Zeitler (28). The web site had him 24th in pass blocking and 31st in run blocking.
The signing is emblematic of the Bengals' two-pronged approach to this offseason, which is focused on signing a handful of their own free agents for a team that has only two unsigned starters in Collins and right end Michael Johnson, as well as extending some players heading into their contact years.
Johnson, 27, is the big one. Rated as one of the NFL's top five free agents available by pretty much everybody, Johnson looks like he may be going to market Saturday with the Bengals joining the rest of the league for his services that can't be acquired officially until Tuesday.
The Bengals have said they're interested in signing both Collins and Johnson, but they're also doing it in the context of the future deals for three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. It's believed they've reached out to at least start conversations with several extension candidates that could range anywhere from Dalton and Green to Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict to defensive tackle Domata Peko.