With Cook gone, where do Bengals turn?

CINCINNATI -- More times in the past two months than I care to admit, my email inbox and Twitter mentions were filled with questions about Cincinnati Bengals center Kyle Cook.

Most of them had to do with Cook's future with the Bengals.

None of them had to do with adding to that future.

Will Cook get cut? What will it take for the Bengals to cut him? Can't they find anyone better to play the position?

Every time I received one of those inquiries or included them in a mailbag, I always thought to myself "well yes, it's entirely possible he might be cut." But never did I feel convinced enough to believe that the six-year Bengals veteran who had been lauded both inside and outside Paul Brown Stadium for his ability to spot "Mike" linebacker checks and to shift his offensive line into the right sets really would be sliced off the roster. It just didn't seem right to me.

Looks like my gut was wrong.

In a move that didn't necessarily come out of left field but was somewhat stunning nonetheless, the Bengals announced Tuesday afternoon that they had indeed parted ways with the lineman.

"Thank you Cincinnati for the memories ... Looking forward to our next opportunity," Cook wrote to his Facebook page just before the announcement. "Thank you everyone for the support these past seven years, we have made many friends and tons of great memories..."

And so ends the Bengals career of a player who spent six seasons on their roster and one more on the practice squad. Now that he's gone, where do they turn?

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander isn't yet ready to name a replacement, but believes one currently exists on the roster.

"I couldn't tell you right now who our No. 1 center will be, but that's because we do have a few different options that we're confident will improve us in the end," Alexander said. "That's what the offseason programs and training camp are for: to evaluate those possibilities and come up with the best one."

Likely front-runners to replace Cook include Trevor Robinson and Mike Pollak. Robinson will be entering his third season this fall, and will be looking to build upon the experience he gained in the final weeks of last season. With Cook injured most of the finale against the Ravens, Robinson played 58 snaps in the 34-17 win. Pollak was re-signed Saturday. Though he mostly plays guard, he can be used at center, as well.

It will be in the locker room where the Bengals will miss Cook the most. He might not have been as vocal as Pro Bowl veteran Andrew Whitworth, but Cook was among those linemen who pleaded behind the scenes for more rushing opportunities for Cincinnati's offense. With Hue Jackson taking over as offensive coordinator this season, the Bengals are expected to start using their ground game more regularly.

"Kyle has been a great Bengal, a tough guy and an excellent leader," Alexander said. "In addition to being a good player, he showed great ability to coordinate things at the line of scrimmage. He has been a big help to Andy Dalton as Andy has developed into a veteran player."

Much to my relative surprise, Dalton will now need a new helper.