Updated: 9:55 a.m.
While Chad Ochocinco is rehearsing for Dancing With The Stars, the Bengals appear to be at least dancing with the notion of checking out wide receivers that come free Friday.
On Friday morning, ProFootballTalk.com cited a source saying two teams are interested in Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens, the man The Ocho has openly lobbied to come to the Bengals via free agency. Indications are the Bengals are one of those teams, simply because they look to be kicking the tires of all the top receiver names.
Owens is just part of a list that includes Antonio Bryant, Kevin Walter, Chris Chambers, and Josh Reed. The way head coach Marvin Lewis talked last week at the NFL scouting combine, the Bengals aren't looking to make a quick, lucrative deal. But in the past they have put out feelers on the first day and then waited for the market to settle.
Evidence that the Bengals were disappointed in the receivers at the combine came with the quick trigger on wide receiver Laveranues Coles on Thursday when they terminated his contract 51 weeks after giving hm about $10 million in salary and bonuses to replace T.J. Houshmandzadeh. With no salary cap in place for this season, the Bengals don't take a hit on Coles' prorated signing bonus.
There seems to be a definite shift in the Bengals' look at the free-agent receivers in the past few days. They probably don't want to go past the Bills' one-year, $5 million deal for Owens, but it's no secret that the Bengals and the rest of the teams emerged this week from the NFL scouting combine subdued about what is available in the draft at receiver. They appear to be taking a harder look at what is available on the market than they did last month.
It hasn't changed. The thing that made them so sour about the Coles signing (age) is prevalent. The Bengals are probably only looking to do a one-year deal, which may take them out of the sweepstakes for 29-year-old Bryant. And with Owens (36), Reed (30), Chambers (32) and Michael Furrey (33) long in the tooth, the Bengals aren't going to pay top dollar.
Still, the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi was calling Cincinnati the best destination before the draft for Owens.
One day before the new NFL year starts, the Bengals wasted no time Thursday when they moved past the Coles signing and cut the 32-year-old wide receiver. Coles' struggles in his only year with the club (43 catches, 514 yards, five touchdowns) don't bode well for elderly wide receivers in stripes.
But in scouting reports in the media about the upcoming free-agent class, Owens still gets good marks for being able to run. Even though the Bengals let go Kevin Walter, 27, four years ago, they may be ready to see what his price tag is. He became a solid No. 2 in Houston, but could he be a difference-maker?
Also, in a Thursday press release the Bengals issued their list of players they have designated as restricted free agents as well as exclusive rights players with one-year contract offers in an attempt to retain them for the upcoming season when free agency begins Friday.
The six RFAs are middle linebacker Abdul Hodge, SAM linebacker Rashad Jeanty, WILL linebacker Brandon Johnson, cornerback David Jones, left guard Evan Mathis and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker.
The Bengals also announced they tendered offers to five players who are classified as third-year players for 2010 and aren't eligible for free agency. They now have exclusive rights to center Kyle Cook, safety Kyries Hebert, left guard Nate Livings, quarterback Jordan Palmer and right tackle Dennis Roland.
By making the tenders to the RFAs, the Bengals have the right to retain the players by matching any offer sheet. If an RFA does not sign an offer from another team, he can remain with the Bengals by signing the one-year tender, or by negotiating a longer-term contract.
Johnson was tendered at a dollar amount which stipulates that if the Bengals decline to match a competing offer, the team signing him must compensate Cincinnati with its second-round choice in the 2010 draft. The other five RFAs were tendered at "draft status level," which means that if they entered the NFL through the draft, any team signing one of them must compensate the Bengals with a 2010 draft pick in the same round in which they were selected. There is no compensation for undrafted players tendered at "draft status level."
The deadline for a restricted free agent to sign an offer sheet from another team is April 15. Any RFA who has not signed an offer sheet by that date will have his 2010 NFL rights revert exclusively to his 2009 club.
The Bengals are not sending tender offers to three other potential RFAs who were with Cincinnati in 2009: Tight ends Daniel Coats and J.P. Foschi and defensive tackle Shaun Smith. Those players are scheduled to become free agents Friday, at which point they may negotiate with the Bengals or any other NFL team, without compensation or signing deadline issues.
The Bengals didn't offer third-year tight end Matt Sherry after he spent last season on Cincinnati's Reserve/Injured list. Sherry is also eligible to negotiate with any NFL team Friday.
That number on Johnson is $1.8 million for a guy that had a very active season playing well on third down and backing up Keith Rivers. He played in every game with four starts and had the seventh-most tackles from scrimmage (67) and second on special teams (12) along with 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and three passes defensed. He started at SAM backer when Jeanty broke his lower leg on the opening kickoff of the Wild Card game against the Jets.
The Bengals ended up tendering just over $10 million in contracts Thursday.