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Marvin Lewis “optimistic” about re-signing Andrew Whitworth

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 6: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals talks with Andrew Whitworth #77 while playing the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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The Bengals drafted offensive tackles in the first and second round of the 2015 draft with the idea that Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher would allow them to transition to a future that didn’t feature Andrew Whitworth anchoring the left side of the offensive line.

Neither player did much to threaten Whitworth in their first two NFL seasons and the Bengals aren’t in a hurry to part ways with a player who has started 164 games for the team over the last 11 years. They began talks to re-sign Whitworth after the end of the regular season and those conversations haven’t doused hope that he’ll be back in 2017.

Coach Marvin Lewis said Friday, via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, that the team is “optimistic” about their chances of re-signing their left tackle. Doing so would keep a top option for tackle-needy teams off the open market, although we’re close enough to the “legal tampering” window that Whitworth may want to hear from other clubs about what they are willing to offer.

Right guard Kevin Zeitler is the other starter destined for free agency. The 2012 first-round pick is expected to have a strong market in free agency and keeping both may be too much for the Bengals to hope for this offseason.