Team checklist: Cincinnati Bengals

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I promised to do eight of the post-lockout team checklists.  With the negotiations possibly reaching a crescendo this week and given that I’ve done only two of the eight that I promised to do, I’d better get moving.

I’ve previously looked at the Steelers and the Browns.  Here’s a team that plays both of those franchises twice per year.  Which is the nicest possible thing I can currently say about the Cincinnati Bengals.

1.  Make a final decision about Carson Palmer.

Palmer, the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, has by all accounts decided that he wants out of Cincinnati.  He plans to retire if he’s not traded or released.

Though the Bengals are prepared to move on without him, owner Mike Brown has said he doesn’t plan to grant Palmer his wish.  By taking this position, Brown could be trying to increase Palmer’s trade value.  Alternatively, Brown possibly means it.

In the end, Brown needs to pick between two alternatives:  getting value for Palmer’s rights or sending a powerful message to all current and future Bengals regarding their contractual obligations.  Three years ago, Brown easily stared down receiver Chad Ochocinco, who wanted out but who wasn’t willing to play for no one in lieu of playing for the Bengals.  Palmer seems to be intent on never returning to Cincinnati; thus, Brown has to choose between turning his commodity into a draft pick or two and squatting on Palmer in order to let other players know they can’t get out by threatening to retire.

Regardless of what Brown chooses to do, he needs to make a final decision and act on it as soon as possible after the lockout ends.

2.  Make a final decision about Chad Ochocinco.

Ochocinco has tried unsuccessfully in the past to get out of Cincinnati.  With one year left on his contract and a base salary of $6.5 million due to be paid, he seems to be playing the passive-aggressive game, pretending to want to stay while possibly hoping that the Bengals will choose to move on.

And that’s a choice the Bengals need to ponder simultaneously with the Palmer dilemma.  The increase in the cap floor will make it easier to justify paying Chad’s full salary, and he could serve as a valuable mentor to rookie A.J. Green (assuming Chad isn’t a bad influence on the fourth overall pick in the draft).  Plus, Ochocinco sells tickets and generates interest in the franchise.

On the other hand, owner Mike Brown could decide that the Ochocinco routine has played itself out, and that he’s a relic of the past, not a cornerstone of the future.

Regardless of what Brown chooses to do, he needs to make a final decision and act on it as soon as possible after the lockout ends.  (Is there an echo in here?)

3.  Make a final decision about Cedric Benson.

The Bengals’ Statue of Liberty approach to free agency and the draft has resulted in a few periodic coups.  And perhaps the biggest steal came when owner Mike Brown gave running back Cedric Benson, the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft, a second chance.

Benson has delivered, with nearly 750 yards rushing in 12 games during the 2008 season, more than 1,200 during the 2009 playoff campaign, and more than 1,100 last year.

Benson is now an unrestricted free agent, and the Bengals must decide whether to bring him back or move on once the lockout ends.

The outcome may depend on whether Benson can get more from another team than the Bengals will pay.  If he does, the Bengals will have to decide whether to fill the void via free agency or bump Bernard Scott up to the top spot on the depth chart.

4.  Spend money on a cornerback.

If the new CBA includes a requirement that more than 95 percent of the salary cap be spent in cash, the Bengals won’t be able to hide behind the 86-percent salary floor and/or rely on accounting tricks to comply with the spending minimums.

One way to do that would be to break out the checkbook for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

OK, you can stop laughing.  We realize that Cincinnati signing Asomugha would be an even bigger surprise than Reggie White choosing Green Bay 18 years ago, and that it most likely won’t happen.  But whether it’s Antonio Cromartie or Ike Taylor or Carlos Rogers, the Bengals need to invest in one of the top free-agent cornerbacks.

5.  Spend money on the defensive line.

After (or in lieu of) getting a big-name cornerback, the Bengals need to spend some of that cap minimum on the defensive line, preferably in the form of a high-end pass rusher.  Antwan Odom has fallen off dramatically since popping an Achilles’ tendon and getting popped for performance enhancing drugs.  Odom has eight sacks through six games in 2009.  He has zero since.

Ray Edwards could be a terror on the outside, if the Bengals are willing to pay.

Again, willingness to pay may not matter.  The Bengals will have no choice but to spend if the salary floor moves closer and closer to the salary cap.  So if they have to spend it, why not spend it on a guy like Edwards?

6.  Get quarterback help.

We’ll finish where we started, sort of.  With Carson Palmer not coming back, the Bengals need one or two more quarterbacks, preferably with game experience.

Jordan Palmer isn’t the answer, and neither is Dan LeFevour.  Andy Dalton very well may be the future, but the Bengals need some protection in the event the Dalton isn’t ready to start as a rookie.

The Bengals will have several options.  The sooner they make a move on the guy they want after the lockout ends, the better off they’ll be.

33 responses to “Team checklist: Cincinnati Bengals

  1. Stupid checklist.

    Doesn’t say anything about a final decision on kicking Mike Brown outta the league.

    Until that is checked off, the Bengals will always be the laughing stock Bungles.

  2. 7) Kidnap the owners favorite pet gerbil and hold it hostage until the owner agrees to sell the team to a new owner that actually cares about winning.

  3. Where do you even begin with Mike Brown?

    Instead of trying to send a strong message to current and future players that threatening retirement will not get you out of Cincinnati, why not send a strong message that gives current and future players a reason to stay, i.e., a commitment to winning?

    Trade Palmer and actually get something for your teams’ assets rather than wasting them to prove a ridiculous point.

    I honestly have no idea why this guy wants to own an NFL team.

  4. 1.) Carson’s not playing this year. He may show up if the Bengals are against the salary cap to force them to cut him, but other than that you won’t see him in stripes again.

    2.) I would think given how Mike Brown has absolutely no clue what it means to build a team with a winning culture that Chad will be back.

    3.) Benson will be back, Bernard Scott would wear down quickly as a feature back.

    4.) Have you ever heard of Jonathan Joseph? The Bengals own top end free agent cornerback. Sign him.

    5.) Carlos Dunlap, Bengals 2010 2nd round draft
    pick, had 9.5 sacks in the last 6 games of the season. He was a terror.

    6.) Amen.

    Bottom line. The Bengals are likely going to be UGLY bad this year.

    The solace Bengals fans will have is if Mike Brown is actually FORCED to spend money on players because of new rules which will be very ironic considering he was one of two to bemoan the last CBA deal. I have a hard time believing he’ll be forced to spend, unless very harsh financial penalties, he just won’t do it.

  5. 1) MONTHS ago Palmer stated he would retire rather than play for the Bengals. He stated that he was financially secure and he didn’t need the money.

    2) Recently the franchise nailed down the coveted #122 spot as – the worst franchise in all of pro sports.

    Today’s topic – is there a connection between #1 and #2?


  6. Palmer and Chad take up a huge chunk of money – I think the Bengals need to cut their losses and let them go – start off fresh with a new core and build from the ground up.

    They don’t really have a choice….do they?

  7. I don’t see enough Bengals games to make any real comments.

    But after watching this team’s record and consistantly bad moves year after year under this ownership I gotta agree with the Bengals fans. Perhaps the biggest thing they need is a new owner.

  8. 1. Palmer claiming is a millionare? Check
    2. Chad riding a bull? Check
    3. A Circus in town? Check
    4. Worst organization in pro sports? Check

    With the first overall pick…….

  9. You forgot the part where the Bengals turned down multiple draft picks from the Redskins in order to “teach Chad a lesson”. Well played, Mike Brown (sarcasm). Hey, at least you’ll get a 4th or 5th round compensatory pick (sarcasm).

  10. Hey turd sandwich. Check the ol rankings. The bengals had one of the best pass protections in the NFL.

    You are a turd sandwich. That much u got right.

  11. If Mike Brown had any brains ( he doesn’t and he is the worst owner in the NFL), he would dump Palmer and Johnson, take the money resign Joseph and Benson and sign one D_Lineman and maybe hopefully veteran QB. They could win 7-8 games. On a 4th place schedule, playing Cleveland 2x, Denver, Buffalo, the NFC West, and the AFC South, they should be able to do so. Too bad the owner doesn’t retire.

  12. Apparently you completely forgot about jonathan joseph. CBs are probably the strongest part of this team. With Leon Hall and re-signing joseph we have one of the best if not the best CB duo in the league. And if he leaves we have pacman which showed he was still good last year.

  13. Mike Brown’s legendary patience can only be measured in glacial units. Not only that, but historically he’s been very decisive and predictable about taking the patient approach. (Like, we should get a playoff win any century now.)

    So what’s up with this “Bengals must hurry up and decide” trope? Makes no sense. The problem has never been indecisiveness. Mike Brown knows exactly what he wants to do. Unfortunately.

  14. Ownership is they key. Marvin won’t leave, it’s an easy paycheck for him. As long as ownership makes money every year, he doesn’t care. Maybe Cincy fans should all show up outside the stadium on gamedays and not buy tickets. just protest. Screw the owner outta money. Make a statement. The worst thing that could happen is your team moves away for a few years, gets fruity purple uniforms, and wins a superbowl. (sniff sniff)………ugggggg, Die Art Modell, and shame on you Ozzie.

  15. I’m generally not impressed with these lists…
    Putting CB on there makes no sense, at least not when the CB talk isn’t about keeping their own guys around.
    JJ and Hall are better players than any CB on the market except for Nnamdi, but they aren’t going to sign him now are they.

    So a small change:
    4. Spend money on keeping their own top notch cornerbacks on the team.

    (also I’m not a bengals fan)

  16. A new owner. Nothing else will help the Bengals until Mike Brown is out of the picture. Worst owner in the history of the NFL.

  17. Give Cedric Benson a $1 million contract. Then give him another $1 million for 1000 yards and $1 million for every 100 yards after that. The kid needs a carrot. He would probably top the league with those incentives.

  18. If Mike Brown is so worried about saving face, he should trade Carson and put together a team strong enough to kick his ass every time the Bengals play him.

  19. Spungy, that is ignorant. Benson would not sign for that. He wants 4 to 5 mil a year, without incentives. Get real.

  20. Ced Benson wants to come back – they’ll get some sort of deal done. Same with JJo & Pacman’s coming back and so is Hall: why the priority need for CB? Probably the strongest position on the team.

  21. CB: Not an issue with Adam “Pacman” Jones vying for a starting spot. Remember J Joe is always hurt. There is other talent to act as third and fourth corners on the team.

    DL: Granted Odom and Geathers are dead weight (and Rucker is always hurt), but Dunlap and Micheal Johnson make up for them and Dunlap was a sack monster in the few games they let him play. Peko and Gino Atkins is fine at DT and Tank Johnson (is he a FA?) probably isn’t in their plans. Jason Shirley, recovering from an Achilles Tendon, will be returning to DT from G. They only need depth, not starters on the DL.

    OT: As said by others, you glaringly missed OL. It doesn’t matter who is at QB, if they can’t open holes for the RB to go through or protect the passer. Whitworth at LT is the only true quality starter that they have. C Kyle Cook is servicable, but could be improved upon and there is no proven depth at C. RT/G Andre Smith has been a bust (literally and figuratively) so far. RG Bobby Williams has been out of shape and declining the last couple of years and his effectiveness remains to be seen. There has been a merry-go-round at the LG position. Final evaluation: Bengals need two experienced starting guards who can pass and run block and a quality backup Center. Without upgrades, Dalton will be running for his life.

    In the FB department, We have Chris Pressley back and Fui Vakapuna is marginal and neither could stay healthy in 2010 and were both beaten for the starting position in 2009 by an overweight Jeremi Johnson, who ate himself out of the league. Pressley is the better run blocker of the two. A veteran upgrade at FB would be welcome.

    A new head coach would be welcome, as Marvin will still constrain the offense and have the same poor time management skills and have that deer caught in headlights look when the other team figures out his gameplan. He is almost always outcoached in the second half. Marvin is good for one or two losses per season, regardless of playing talent. His continued attempts to use the unbalanced line, long after the other teams figured it out the year before, is just one example of poor coaching and inability to change. I would not be surprised to see the Bengal’s offense under Dalton to look remarkably like the Bob Bratkowski’s offense because Marvin was deciding the runs versus pass scheme for game day. Gruden may help Dalton choose different options, but always audibling at the line to a running play and tipping the play off was a Marvin decision, not Bratkowski.

    QB: Need a one year veteran starter, but ticket sales will force the Bengals to start Dalton, ready or not, before all the tools are ready around him and he may get beat to death and ruined as Davis Klingler was. The owner does not learn his lessons.

    If I were Carson Palmer, I would try to buy out my contract. Mike might let him go if he were to let loose of some of that $80 million he is reportly has in the bank. It would serve Mike’s purpose of showing the players who is boss and if you want out, it is going to cost. And that alone, would be the deterent that Brown wants.

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