6-3-02, 6:15 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
History shows the Bengals make some kind of significant move annually in response to the NFL's magic date of June 1.
But history also shows it doesn't happen right away. So when some teams began paring their rosters for salary-cap reasons Monday, the Bengals spent the day waiting and seeing.
And for all those waiting for a Darnay Scott decision soon, remember that the Bengals cut wide receiver Carl Pickens two years ago on July 19 and the eve of training camp.
"Everyone hears the same names out there on the list," said Bengals President Mike Brown of the projected cuts. "It surprises me that everyone gets so excited about it. Almost everyone on it is in their 30s and some guys are closer to 40 than 30. You're talking about a real veteran guy who can help you for about a year."
That doesn't mean the Bengals won't check the waiver wire, although Brown indicated Monday the club is satisfied with its young tight ends and won't pursue a veteran like John Riemersma, expected to be cut by Buffalo.
But it's early. In 1998, the Bengals
signed their starting quarterback (Neil O'Donnell) and top pass rusher (Clyde Simmons) during the first week of July. In the third week of June, 1999, the Bengals picked off a starter in Matt O'Dwyer as the post-June 1 moves further clogged the guard market. During the past two Julys they picked up key reserves who have ended up starting in victories, such as left tackle John Jackson in 2000 and defensive lineman Bernard Whittington in 2001.
Part of the reasoning stems from the Paul Brown creed, which says: "Keep all options open until the last possible instant." Which is what the Bengals did with Pickens.
Scott, who turns 30 in July with a $3.9 million cap hit, is still in the plans as of now. But he is the topic of much internal debate as the Bengals ponder going with a corps of younger receivers. It just so happens that the most appealing position in the projected cuts is wideout, with Keenan McCardell (Jacksonville), Antonio Freeman (Green Bay), Derrick Alexander (Kansas City), and Herman Moore (Detroit) expected to get lopped. Freeman, McCardell, and Moore got the call Monday, as did Steelers linebacker Mike Jones, Lions quarterback Charlie Batch, and Falcons running back Jamal Anderson.
The Redskins also cut defensive end Marco Coleman, but at 32 he's probably too long in the tooth for a team that has Justin Smith and Reinard Wilson.
It doesn't look like the Bengals are doing with Scott what the Chiefs are reportedly doing with Alexander, which is dumping him to pursue another veteran receiver. Published reports say five teams have more room under the cap than the Bengals, a club that has about $2 million to spend beyond its rookie pool according to ESPN.com figures.
"It's pretty obvious that their teams are letting them go because they are overpriced and overaged," Brown said. "It doesn't mean they can't be effective, they're just not worth the deals that they have with their teams."
Brown won't say if that is his take on Scott. But he did say he is interested to see what kind of deals they do get because they resemble Scott in age and experience. Alexander and Freeman are 30 with McCardell and Moore 32.
The Bengals could use a backup defensive tackle and did make a preliminary call on veteran Jim Flanigan. But that's on the backburner as the Bengals wait for the field to settle.
"We don't have a crying need, but there are positions that interest us," Brown said. "If a guy like Whittington, who is a good player and a good fit, is out there, we'll do it."
In the early days of minicamp, there was concern about the health of their top two tight ends, rookies Sean Brewer and Matt Schobel. But even though neither has played a NFL snap, Brown said Monday they won't pursue a veteran.
"It's unusual to go into a season with two guys who don't have anymore experience than our two guys," Brown said. "But they are physically talented to be NFL players and we want to try to bring them along. I guess early in the year it might be a little tough going, but as the season goes by they'll begin to hold their own."