Bengals know Peyton's place


Chris Crocker

It seems like the Bengals are one of the few NFL teams that aren't planning to host Peyton Manning on his free-agent tour, but safety Chris Crocker had some advice for those that are.

"He's truly a coach. He's the best offensive coordinator you could possibly have," Crocker said Wednesday as the world absorbed Manning's release from the Colts.

"I definitely think he'll bring his system to wherever he goes. It's worked. That's what he's done for I don't know how many years. You'd be an idiot not to want to bring his system with him."

Miami? Seattle? Arizona? The trauma of quarterback drama that racked the Bengals this time last year is no more with Pro Bowler Andy Dalton getting ready for a second season. There probably also won't be the accompanying frenzy when free agency begins next week.

After signing three defensive starters last year, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis indicated last month the Bengals are going to focus on re-signing their own players rather than venturing heavily into the market that begins Tuesday at 4:01 p.m.

But that also means the much saner Bengals offseason is about to heat up with just 42 players under contract and seven starters from the Wild Card game scheduled to be free agents.

Indications are the Bengals also appear to be trying to get longer-term deals with some restricted free agents such as fullback Chris Pressley and exclusive rights guys like running back Cedric Peerman, key role players from last season.

It is an intriguing backdrop with Manning, the most high-profile free agent in NFL history, on the market. Where it will impact the Bengals is a Manning signing taking a team out of the trading derby for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and seemingly putting the Browns closer to a trade with St. Louis for the second pick. NFL.com is theorizing if the Jets at No. 16 or the Cards at No. 13 sign Manning, they'll have to take the best guard or tackle available to help protect him.

No matter who it is, Crocker says the team that gets Manning is an automatic Super Bowl contender.

"Wherever he goes he is their best attribute," he said. "He's truly a coach. He's probably one of the two best quarterbacks right now, but I wouldn't say he's the best quarterback I've ever faced. There have been a lot of them."

Cornerback Leon Hall agrees with Crocker that the league's two best quarterbacks right now are Manning and New England's Tom Brady. Those are the two best he's ever faced, Hall says, because of their brainpower.

"When you play those guys, you look up and all of a sudden they've got 28 points on the board," Hall said. "And it's not because they keep hitting 75-yarders. They just go down the field methodically on you.

"Even though you have a good idea at what they're trying to do, he's so good at executing and putting the ball where it needs to be you just can't defend it. He can either go to the other place where you weren't thinking he was going to go, or he can throw it where you're at and you know the route, but it's at the spot where your arms aren't long enough to get to it and the receiver makes the catch."

And then there are Manning's dizzying hand signals. Yes, Hall says, it's true. Some are dummy calls.

"He'll switch it up. Maybe they'll do one hand signal this week and 'I'll show you the same thing next week' at the beginning of the game then do the signal again later and it's a dummy," Hall said. "I don't even look at the signals anymore. I'd just rather play what I see and react accordingly with Manning, Brady and the more experienced quarterbacks. Those two are definitely similar in that fashion. They change up. They're real savvy,  smart and try to trick you every once in a while."

When Manning lined up against the Bengals as a rookie in 1998, the right cornerback was Artrell Hawkins, now a national TV radio talk show host for Fox Sports. When Manning played the Bengals for the last time as a Colt in 2010, Hall was the right corner. All told Manning went 7-0 against Cincinnati for a 106.9 passer rating on 17 TDs and three interceptions.

2012?

Of the potential suitors, the Bengals play the Redskins on the road and the Broncos and Dolphins at home.

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