Mobile, Ala. - Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin gathered with the Cincinnati scribes Wednesday morning before the club's coaches sent the South team through its paces here at the Senior Bowl. After all the gags about not caring if a certain quarterback likes Skyline Chili or not, he reiterated the Bengals are impressed with said quarterback but they're also looking at other players to potentially take with the NFL Draft's overall No. 1 pick.
Tobin also said it remains to be seen what happens with quarterback Andy Dalton and ruled out nothing with the incumbent franchise quarterback, meaning he could be a starter or a bridge guy if that pick is indeed LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
Plus, Tobin acknowledged the Bengals are looking at unrestricted free agents but indicated they won't get out of their comfort zone.
"You don't want to force it," Tobin said.
He also is adamant that the plan isn't for franchise great A.J. Green to play in another team's uniform despite his impending free agent status and cited how much Green has meant to them on and off the field. And with running back Joe Mixon eligible for an extension this offseason, he said the club plans to discuss his situation.
- On Burrow, he's extremely impressed. This is how much: "Normally you get a game where you say, "Gee, why weren't you too good?' There's not a lot of that. You almost have to go back to a whole different season to start finding things to at least question … We've got a lot to do on getting a fit for that first pick and he'll be one we're discussing for sure. There'll be some others."
- When Tobin was reminded the last time the Bengals had the No. 1 pick they chose USC quarterback Carson Palmer and sat him for his rookie year behind incumbent Jon Kitna, he also pointed to a more recent vintage that started sitting as rookies. Like the two Super Bowl quarterbacks.
"It all depends," Tobin said, "what's best for the team.
"We want to be fair to Andy. He's been great for us. But no decision has been made. He's under contract for next year and he's a valuable NFL football player and he's incredibly valuable to us for what he's done over the years. It'll be a process as we go through that. We'll see what opportunities come up. We'll see where our evaluations lie and where the organization feels in the next few months is the best way to go forward at that position, other positions as well."
- When it comes to free agency, the Bengals have preferred in the last decade to keep their UFA signings to a minimum. It sounds like they're going to be more active, but maybe not with the high numbers they seem to be saving for Green and Mixon.
"It's not just, 'Oh, you can fix that with free agency,' because it might not be there in free agency the way you want it. It might not be there," Tobin said. "You don't just bring in a guy, overpay him, and then he doesn't produce in that role and then you're in the same spot, just with less capital to improve the situation.
"I think the willingness is always there. But yeah. Our roster needs help. We're going to look to help it every way that is possible, whether it's signing a CFL guy (which they just did with a CFL all-star corner), whether it's signing college free agents, through the draft, through unrestricted free agency or with guys who are going to get cut at other teams, how they might fit. And then we'll also look to the trade thing. And we'll see. But there's a lot of avenues to improve your team, not just one to do it — unrestricted free agency or the draft. We look at all those avenues when we try to add pieces that are smart for us."