Paul Brown Stadium wasn’t the selling point, though. It was a steak dinner at The Precinct, where he spent time with Burrow and defensive end Sam Hubbard, a Cincinnati native, as well as members of the coaching staff.
Reiff fit right in, and Burrow was someone he wanted to play with and protect.
“Just the way he conducts himself, carries himself,” Reiff said. “He seems like a down-to-earth, Cincinnati-type guy. Tough, Midwestern, blue-collar. Comes to work. … I’m really impressed with him.”
The Bengals’ first four additions in free agency were on the defensive side, but protecting Burrow was a clear priority going into this offseason. Burrow, the No. 1 overall draft pick last year, tore his ACL and MCL when the pocket collapsed on him in a Week 11 game at Washington, and the Bengals’ offensive line ranked 28th with 48 sacks allowed in 2020.
Reiff said the desire to get more help for Burrow was clear in his conversations with the Bengals.
“You look at their foundation right now, you look at the quarterback,” Reiff said. “I assume he’ll be around here for 10, 20 years. It’s important to protect him right now.”
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound veteran originally was a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2012 and spent his first four seasons there before joining the Vikings in 2017. He has played in 135 career games, with 127 starts.
Reiff ranked 37th in pass block win rate (PBWR), according to NFL Next Gen Stats generated by ESPN, and he had just one penalty and one sack allowed in 2020, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The Bengals ranked 29th of the 32 teams in PBWR in 2020.
The Vikings had released Reiff last week to create $11.75 million in salary-cap savings. In coming to Cincinnati, he reunites with offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, who was on Detroit’s staff as a quarterbacks coach when Reiff was there in 2016.
“He was a very good player for us,” Callahan said. “… He’s got great toughness, he’s athletic, he does some really good things in the run game and in pass pro. To be able to have a guy like that on that side is going to help us get the whole run game better, because that’s one of the things that has to improve all the way around for us to win more games. … He’s physical at the point of attack. He’s got the athleticism to climb to the second level and get on linebackers and stay on them. So most of our run schemes will be very beneficial to his skill set. I’m excited to get him out there.”
While the Bengals’ four other additions this week were all 26 or 27, Reiff is the oldest of the group. Many had projected the team taking Oregon’s Penei Sewell with the No. 5 pick in the draft, but coach Zac Taylor said getting an experienced lineman in free agency provides some flexibility with that spot.
Cincinnati already has a young tackle in Jonah Williams on the left side, and third- and fourth-year guards in the mix with Mike Jordan and Billy Price. Taylor said there is a benefit in having different types of players but especially up front it helps to be able to add some experience.
“When you add some veterans, they’ve been around the block, and then they can really help continue to develop some guys and really bring a great addition to our entire team, not just the offensive line, not just the offense, but the entire team,” Taylor said. “So there’s a good mix of both there. And there’s positives on both sides of it.”
Reiff attributes his nine-year career so far to the coaches, trainers and medical staff who have helped him along the way, and he knows as a veteran on the line, much will be expected of him.
“Obviously when you’re in year 10, they expect you to bring a little more than your play,” Reiff said. “Guidance. I’m excited to get in that room.”