The state of the Bengals on the eve of rookie minicamp is jam-packed with 89 players, one below the roster limit, and it sounds like they're content to let the kids show them what they've got.
With apparently no discussions about or with Braylon Edwards in the recent past and Jacoby Jones secured in Baltimore, the veteran receiver warning has gone from a watch to the snooze button as head coach Marvin Lewis raves about the emergence of Pro Bowl rookie A.J. Green as the leader of the corps.
"It's his offensive football team and he has come back with that attitude," Lewis said. "It's a no-nonsense attitude and you could tell he's in incredible condition."
Jones had been offered to clubs before and after the draft, but the Bengals may have decided they already have a 24-year-old version of Jones in Brandon Tate. And with a report that their backup WILL linebacker for the past several seasons, Brandon Johnson, has visited the Steelers, they don't appear to be in that derby right now even though they didn't draft one.
"We're pretty full with players and keep seeing if there are guys who are released who can help us and make us competitive but we want to strike the balance of the young players, too," Lewis said. "I don't want to fill up our 90 spots with all old players. We've got to have some young guys to help supplement the draft picks and so at the end of the day you have an opportunity of guys trending up. We don't want to have too many guys on the other side of their careers."
Which sounds like good news for the team's current backup WILL, second-year Vincent Rey, but that's the kind of position the Bengals could attack as late as the last cuts of training camp. There could be a bevy of moves after the weekend if some of the rookie free agents don't hold up and some of the tryout guys impress.
With the 29-year-old Edwards rehabbing a knee, his presence on the market conjures up memories of 2010. The Bengals signed a free-agent receiver with a knee problem (Antonio Bryant) and another with baggage (Terrell Owens) and it blew up. They went 4-12 while cutting promising rookie receiver Dez Briscoe and icing 2008 second-rounder Jerome Simpson one more year. Still, Edwards is a big, tall guy in the Bengals mold. But despite a report earlier in the week they had expressed interest in him, as of Thursday it had yet to develop into a discussion, tryout or visit.
In an interview with Bengals.com and The Cincinnati Enquirer breaking down the general state of the team earlier this week, Lewis sounded confident about his current receiver crop even though Tate has yet to catch a ball as a Bengal and the club's most experienced and healthy guys are the pair coming off their rookie seasons in Green and Andrew Hawkins.
One of the dates to add a veteran would seem to be May 22, the first day of the voluntary practices.
"We've got two experienced NFL receivers basically -- A.J. and Tate. I think Brandon getting here last year and now seeing an opportunity to rise and see his moment, he's happy about that," Lewis said. "I think he's dedicated himself to that. A.J. has grown immensely in his stature. It's fun to hear him talk and communicate now. I don't know, we may have a pretty veteran player even though he is in his second year as far as experience and leadership.
"There's never a line he's not first in. No one goes before him in anything. He accepts his role as being one of the best players on this team and he takes it seriously. We may not need another guy."
With a question alluding to the T.O.-inflicted damage of locker-room chemistry and passing-game consistency, Lewis said an injection of a veteran receiver wouldn't hamper what Green has going on.
"No one affects A.J. just like no one affects a Ray Lewis," Lewis said. "A.J. has those kinds of qualities that are pretty special. That's what I'm observing. He's a guy that is always going to be ahead of the pack no matter who you put ahead of the pack. Without being obnoxious or standoffish."
Plus, Lewis just thinks the locker room is strong enough to withstand pretty much anyone coming in here.
"I don't think anyone lets anyone rock the boat," he said, alluding to his two de facto captains. "(Andrew) Whitworth and (Domata) Peko, they're not letting anyone do it."
Lewis has also noticed a change in Green's tag-team partner, Pro Bowl rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. With coaches being allowed to work with players on the field for the past two weeks, some things are obvious.
"He led a team, which is more," Lewis said. "Going to the playoffs is a great accomplishment but he led a team. He was in a situation that had some tension built into it. Outside tension."
Now the only tension seems to be roster competition, like such hot spots as cornerback. Even before first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick arrives this weekend, four first-round corners have been working out in the persons of starter Nate Clements, backup Adam Jones, and free-agent arrivals Terence Newman and Jason Allen.
Another first-rounder, Leon Hall has been rehabbing his torn Achilles and has stepped up his football drills on the field. He won't appear in team stuff until training camp at the earliest, but Lewis says Hall, wide receiver Jordan Shipley (ACL), and defensive tackle Pat Sims (ankle) look good.
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, fresh from his Super Bowl run with New England, has also received nice opening reviews for his quickness.
"Despite the extra two weeks away our guys have come back in pretty good working order and shape for the most part," Lewis said of the new, streamlined schedule. "Coaches have taken advantage of days on the field with the players. Both coordinators have been pleased.
"I've been pleased with watching this week thus far. Impressed with our guys that we have added -- Bennie, Terence, (left guard Travelle) Wharton and Jason Allen. They've been impressive so far."