Earlier in the hour on NBC SportsTalk, host Erik Kuselias asked me whether receiver Chad Ochocinco will draw more interest than former Bengals teammate Terrell Owens. Since any interest is necessarily more than none, Ochocinco likely will be in better position to continue his NFL career.
But where? Here’s a look at the possible suitors. In no particular order other than the order the names popped into my head.
Cincinnati Bengals: Don’t laugh. OK, go ahead and laugh. Coach Marvin Lewis put up with plenty over the years, and he won’t want to bring the Ochocircus back to town. But if assistant Hue Jackson, who referred last year to Chad as Jackson’s “son,” decides to lobby Lewis aggressively, Hue could wear Marvin down.
Miami Dolphins: The question of whether a team should be interested in any player ultimately comes down to a comparison of the player to the current talent on the depth chart. The Dolphins have Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Legedu Naanee. Enough said. Chad would help, and he also would drive interest for the looming Hard Knocks series.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills tried to land Robert Meachem in free agency, and the possibility of turning the Pats’ trash into a late-career treasure could intrigue G.M. Buddy Nix. Buffalo pounced on T.O. three years ago, and while they may be gun shy after dealing with Owens, Chad has a reputation for being far more playful than Owens, who is seen by some as simply malicious.
Washington Redskins: Several years ago, owner Daniel Snyder was willing to give up a couple of first-round picks for Chad. But that was before G.M. Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan took the keys.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The good news for Chad is that former Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is now the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville. The bad news for Chad, possibly, is that former Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is now the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville. Bratkowski, like Lewis, has ridden the Ochocoaster, and Bratkowski may not want to get back on. If he does, however, that could be the best fit, given that Chad knows the offense — and given that he struggled mightily to learn a new one last year and, as evidenced by the Pats’ decision to cut him, this year.
Baltimore Ravens: With Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith leading the way, Ochocinco could play a Houshmandzadeh-style supporting role for one of the top teams in the AFC.
Houston Texans: They have only two receivers who have ever played in an NFL regular-season game. But the Texans seem to be very reluctant to throw the doors open for guys who crave attention.
Oakland Raiders: Carson Palmer knows him better than any quarterback. Again, that could be a good thing. And that could be a bad thing.
Dallas Cowboys: So desperate for a No. 3 receiver that even T.O.’s name has emerged in very soft whispers, Chad could be the best available complement to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
Minnesota Vikings: Look at the depth chart. He’d instantly be the second-best receiver on the roster, behind Percy Harvin.
Carolina Panthers: In Charlotte, Chad would improve a suspect receiving corps, and he’d be reunited with his former junior college teammate, Steve Smith.
St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford still needs weapons, and Chad compares favorably to the receivers the team currently has.
Regardless of which team signs him, the challenge will be to let Chad be Chad. The Patriots tried to clip his wings in 2011, and being different off the field made him different on the field. He seemed so scared about screwing up his opportunity that he ultimately screwed up his opportunity. The next team that employs him has to be willing to embrace who he is, and to encourage him to be himself and be willing to make mistakes and not fear losing playing time or, eventually, his job.
Though Batman a/k/a T.O. may be done, Robin still has some run left in him. Regardless of where he lands, here’s hoping we all get one more glimpse of the old Chad.