Notes: First things first

Posted Apr 10, 2012

Jermaine Gresham

The Raiders ended last season leading the NFL with 14 first-round draft picks on their 53-man roster, but the Bengals could end up with as many as 15 on their offseason roster by the time this year's first round is over on April 26.

The Bengals have signed or re-signed four first-rounders in this month of free agency and as of Tuesday afternoon were still trying to get another one done in Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman. He was the fifth pick in the 2003 draft when defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had the same job in Dallas.

Safety Reggie Nelson (2007), cornerback Jason Allen (2006), defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson (2007), and defensive end Derrick Harvey (2008) have done deals this offseason, joining three other former first-rounders that signed to the defense in the last two years. Cornerbacks Nate Clements (2001) and Adam Jones (2005), as well as outside linebacker Manny Lawson (2006) all started last year's playoff game.

If the Bengals keep both first-round picks (17 and 21), they'll be with the No. 1s from the five previous drafts in cornerback Leon Hall, outside linebacker Keith Rivers, right tackle Andre Smith, tight end Jermaine Gresham and wide receiver A.J. Green.

A first-round pick isn't a lock to stay anywhere more than five years. Hall is in the minority in that '07 class, where 19 of the 32 first-rounders are either on other teams or free agents.

PUZZLE TIME: This is the sixth time the Bengals have been picking No. 17 or lower in the Marvin Lewis era, but you could make the argument it's the first time they've done it without a desperate need staring at them.

In 2005 the Bengals were coming off a season they had just 31 sacks and only Justin Smith and Duane Clemons had more than 3.5. They needed a pass-rusher and had to have Georgia's David Pollack at No. 17.

In 2006 and 2007, cornerbacks Tory James and Deltha O'Neal had run their course and the Bengals desperately needed a jolt of young legs at the spot and came out of it with Hall at No. 18 in '07 and Johnathan Joseph at No. 24 in '06.

In 2010 the world knew the Bengals needed a tight end after a season they won the division with a tight end (J.P.  Foschi) that came off the street when their two starters (Reggie Kelly and Ben Utecht) went down in training camp. Jermaine Gresham at No. 21 was the no-brainer.

It's not so clear-cut now. The only thing close to desperation is a No. 2 receiver opposite A.J. Green, but it is a draft full of No. 2 receivers and Green is the only first-round receiver the Bengals have taken in the Lewis era. Tough guy to find again, but they could take one.

You could look at Hall and Joseph and think cornerback, but they were the first first-round corners the Bengals took in their history and the acquisition of Allen upgrades them. Hall, Clements and Jones were never healthy at the same time last year. But, like, wideout, the Bengals could take one.

You could think guard, but the Bengals have never taken a guard in the first round and they just signed two veterans with a combined 199 NFL starts. Still, if 10-year starters David DeCastro or Cordy Glenn are there?

Safety? Running back? There doesn't seem to be a trail from the past pointing at anything definitively.

STRONG ROOM: This is how intense draft meetings can get around this time of year.

The other day the Bengals defensive staff was sitting around talking about prospects and they weren't very impressed with this one guy that had bench-pressed 14 reps with 225 pounds.

As an aside, linebackers coach Paul Guenther wondered if there were a combined 14 reps sitting in the room and Hue Jackson of the secondary raised his hand insisting, "I can do 14 by myself."

Guenther took up the dare and suddenly the staff was walking downstairs to the weight room, corralling offensive coordinator Jay Gruden along the way. Jackson, who chucked 19 TD passes during two seasons as Pacific's quarterback in the mid-'80s, isn't one to be trifled with in the weight room and he immediately went to the bench without warming up.

But 14 at age 46?

He made it to 13.5 before he had to stop so defensive line coach Jay Hayes could remove his ID card that had crawled up to his neck. The broken momentum did him in.

"I'm mad. I knew I could have had 15 without warming up," Jackson said. "I figure 20 if I had."

A triumphant Guenther knew he had dodged a bullet.

"That was impressive," he said. "I thought he'd only do five or six."

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