Taking a quick temperature of the April 26 first round, now six weeks away:
One draft guru sees the Redskins trade up for RG3 with St. Louis into the No. 2 spot giving the Bengals one more option they might not have had without such a blockbuster. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com says the trade has cemented the importance of getting a quarterback at a reasonable price in the draft and projects a third quarterback, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, going eighth to Miami or 12th to Seattle.
"If that trade didn't happen, I could see him lasting all the way to 22 and Cleveland's second pick," Rang said Wednesday night. "Now, who knows, he could go as high as four (Cleveland's first pick) the way the Browns have approached this. And with the quarterback deals out there in free agency, you can get a rookie for $25 million instead of $50 million."
With Tannehill off the board before they go at 17, the Bengals would have another position player to mull. But Rang says the names haven't changed all that much since last month's NFL Scouting Combine and the parade of pro days. The only riser into the top 10 off the combine has been Memphis junior defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
"He had a top 10 combine, but not top 10 on how he plays on tape," Rang said. "Teams are going to have to go back and look at him closely."
The other big risers off scorching 40-yard combine times are Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill and South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but Rang doesn't think they are rising high enough for Cincinnati's second pick at No. 21.
"I'm in the minority; I don’t like his coverage skills," Rang said of Gilmore. "But I've had a couple of teams tell me, 'Don't worry. He's definitely a first-rounder.' "
Rang says there is a chance that Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick could be among the Bengals choices at No. 17. Kirkpatrick, Rang says, is getting a second look from teams for his injury history and recent marijuana arrest and a bit of a gap has emerged between him and top corner Morris Claiborne of LSU.
"He's still the second best corner, but after the top 10 there aren't a lot of teams looking for them," he said.
WISTFUL HOUSH: Old friend T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the former Bengals (and Seahawks and Ravens and Raiders) wide receiver, caught himself being wistful as he watched the slew of free agent wide receiver signings in the first two days.
"I tell them if you've got a good quarterback and you're comfortable with the coaches, stay where you are," Houshmandzadeh said Wednesday. "But it's an instant gratification thing. I've been there. I understand. You don't think about the aftermath."
Houshmandzadeh salutes former Charger Vincent Jackson for getting nearly $30 million in the first two years of his deal in Tampa Bay, but he wonders how it will go.
"It's a different offense. It's a different quarterback. Josh Freeman is a good quarterback," Houshmandzadeh said, "but if Vincent Jackson gets off to a slow start, he's going to get criticized when, hey, he doesn't have Philip Rivers throwing him the ball and Norv Turner calling the plays.
"The coaches have to adjust to you and you have to adjust to them. Your old coaches know what you can do. You don't have to wait for them to find out."
Houshmandzadeh says it's no wonder that the receiver position has seen some of the biggest busts in free agency. All those delicate variables.
And, yes, Houshmandzadeh has said it before and he'll say it again. If he had to do it over again in these first couple of days of free agency in 2009, he would have stayed in Cincinnati if he knew then what he knows now.
"And the Bengals would have done it differently, too," Houshmandzadeh said. "Laveranues Coles, Antonio Bryant. Nobody won. I would have liked to have seen that workout with me, Laveranues Coles and Antonio Bryant."
Houshmandzadeh says at the time there was a difference in something like $4 million in guaranteed money between the four-year deal he took in Seattle and the one the Bengals offered.
"Take away the money and look at it," he said. "I knew I wasn't the only reason catching all those balls. I had a great quarterback in Carson Palmer, I had an offensive coordinator (Bob Bratkowski) that knew what I could do best and I'd still be there. I think I would have played out the contract. Or at least the first three years. If Jim Mora were still in Seattle, I would be, too."
Houshmandzadeh caught 79 balls for Mora that first year, but new coach Pete Carroll cut him just before the start of the next season and he hooked on in September with a Baltimore team that went to the 2010 playoffs, but he had just 30 catches. His reunion with Palmer in Oakland last year came late enough that he caught only 11 passes.
"Just think, if I stayed in Cincinnati I'd have about 800 catches; in the top 10 of all time," said Houshmandzadeh, who has caught 120 of his 627 balls since he left. "I think I've had 200 snaps since I left Cincinnati and none in the slot and that's my best position. Again, it gets back to the coaches knowing what you can do."
Houshmandzadeh says he can understand the players taking the money. Particularly a young guy like Pierre Garcon, a sixth-round pick leaving the Colts for the Redskins.
"He came out like me, a seventh-rounder, and he didn't make the big money right away," Houshmandzadeh said. "But he's young enough where he can bounce back if he has a slow start because of the adjustment. Vincent Jackson (29) is kind of like me and they'll say, 'See, he's too old,' when it's really just getting used to everything. Garcon would have had Andrew Luck, now he's got RG3, so there's not much difference."
Houshmandzadeh says you can't underestimate the quarterback and took a hard look at his old Bengals running mate.
"If I went with Tom Brady and didn't produce, I'd hang it up," Houshmandzadeh said. "Are you kidding me? Tom Brady? If you go with a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees, or an Eli Manning, or Aaron Rodgers, and you don't produce?"
Houshmandzadeh thinks Palmer is that kind of quarterback and he says they've talked about the ifs for both of them.
"I don't think many free-agent receivers have caught 80 balls in their first year with their new team," he said. "But the Bengals were going to the playoffs, so it didn't matter."
Houshmandzadeh is looking for work and he still thinks he can play. He turns 35 in late September, but if he doesn't have a job by then he figures that's it
(And, no, the Bengals aren't going to go after him.)
"I'm already coaching my kids in all their sports, so I'll just be doing it full-time," Houshmandzadeh said. "We'll get this first week of free agency done and then we'll see what happens, but I'm not going to wait as long as last year. I'll be in the TV booth talking about these guys like they talk about me now."
All in all, he says it still worked out pretty well.
"I'm going into my 12th year," he said, "and no one thought I'd play two. That's pretty good."