In the off-season leading up to the 2006 NFL season, LeCharles Bentley was the hottest offensive lineman available in free agency. Having shown the versatility to play both center and guard as a member of the New Orleans Saints, he was regarded as one of the better up-and-coming young linemen in the league. Just hours after free agency started, Bentley was signed to a pretty hefty contract by the Cleveland Browns, where he was expected to be the anchor of a rebuilding offensive line.
Instead, he tore his patella tendon during his first practice as a member of the Browns. The combination of that and a staph infection wiped his entire 2006 and 2007 seasons off of the books. After he passed his physical the other day, the Browns cut Bentley after paying him $16.6 million to sit on injured reserve for two years.
Now, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk is speculating. . .and I use that term very loosely. . .that Bentley could be brought in to Minnesota to compete for the starting center job and/or give the Vikings a reason to get rid of Matt Birk.
Boy howdy, where to begin with this.
As it stands right now, 12 June 2008, LeCharles Bentley couldn't carry Matt Birk's jock strap. Hell, he might hurt himself just trying to pick it up prior to the actual carrying. I know that Birk is in the last year of his contract and that things aren't entirely peachy between him and the front office at the moment, but going from Birk to Bentley would be a huge downgrade for the Vikings. As far as providing depth, the Vikings have two promising young center prospects (2007 UDFA Dan Mozes and 2008 sixth-round pick John Sullivan) that could be groomed to take Birk's place should he depart Minnesota after this year, and Bentley doesn't strike me as the kind of guy that would willingly accept being a backup.
As far as the guard spots are concerned. . .well, let's safely assume that he's not stepping in at left guard. And the Vikings' front office didn't give Anthony Herrera a five-year contract extension last season so that he could back up a guy that hasn't played a down since 2005.
The only way that this makes sense. . .and, seriously, I'm stretching harder than a Chinese acrobat to make this reach. . .is if the Vikings are truly afraid of disciplinary action against Bryant McKinnie and are entertaining the thought of kicking Birk out to LT until McKinnie returns, in which case a veteran center might sound appealing to them. But, even then, it brings up the problem of what you do with Bentley after Birk returns.
I usually don't have any problems with Mike Florio. But I honestly think he's way, way off base on this one. (Which, with my track record, means that Bentley will be a Viking by this afternoon at the latest.) Really, though, I don't see any scenario where the signing of LeCharles Bentley would be a beneficial one for Minnesota.