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Hobson's Choice: Anything goes

Q: T.J. is lobbying to go to the Eagles. This morning ESPN reports Chad Johnson's agent is shopping him around along with two other receivers after it seemed like Ocho Cinco was on board with the Bengals after his earlier comments about doing what the team asks him to do. Is there any chance humanly possible that the Bengals lose both Chad and T.J.?
--Bill A., Crown City, OH

BILL: It could happen. Of course, in the NFL and the movies, anything can happen. Talking to some national media people this week, there seems to be a feeling out there that the Bengals are ready to move on from both. But it's more likely one of them won't be back. And, the word is the Bengals are going to get in the T.J. derby when the market opens if he doesn't have the tag.

And with the tag deadline—Feb. 19—edging closer and closer, it looks like there won't be a tag for him. As early as 15 minutes after the season in the post-finale locker room, Houshmandzadeh was saying he wouldn't be happy with the tag and he wouldn't report for the offseason workouts, so the team has known before now how toxic he'd be with the tag. Heck, he hasn't been here for the last two years in the offseason.

As for The Ocho, he made it pretty clear at the end of last season that he didn't want to be here. You talk to those who know him and they say he wants out and the fact he showed up on agent Drew Rosenhaus' e-mail shopping list to all NFL teams would confirm it.

But, the fact is, since the end of the season he's had a couple of chances to say he wants out (to NFL Network and and he hasn't said it. It has been reported that Rosenhaus sent a second e-mail to all teams that has said he doesn't have permission to get a trade for Ocho, Plaxico Burress or Anquan Boldin.

But then, if the Bengals are shopping Ocho, it's doubtful they'd let Rosenhaus do it for them.

And T.J. is shopping, period. Not just the Eagles. Why else would any wide receiver in his right mind say he likes Rex Grossman? He's also said he'd be happy to play for the Bengals again, so he's making all the right moves.

Could they both be gone? Ocho's trade-me-or-trade-me tirades from last offseason had to force them to think about that possibility. And the fact Ocho is playing ball would help the process.

But T.J. not being here would definitely cut down on the odds of an Ocho deal. Carson Palmer has to be able to have somebody to throw to.

Gordon from Blanchester, Ohio, e-mailed a question about the possibility of Chris Henry being a starting receiver. Don't see it. He's clearly a No. 3 guy for a variety of reasons, and one of them is you just can't write his name in pen on a depth chart. He's not real versatile, but he sure can catch the long ball.

So if you lose both, you still need a guy to line up opposite Andre Caldwell. Now, if they drafted Michael Crabtree.

The Bengals usually take the approach to see how events unfold. There are plenty out there that think they could use a fresh start at receiver, but the T.J. thing has to get resolved first.

If this was Vegas, I'd say the odds that both of them not being here in '09 are shorter than they were last year at this time. But still far from a lock. They 'll have to keep coming back to the same question. Who is Carson going to throw it to?

Q: All the recent news is reporting that the team is going to let T.J. walk and save the cap money to spread it across the entire roster. But wouldn't it make more sense to, at the very least, tag and trade him for some draft picks or some other compensation?
--Josh W., Dallas, TX

JOSH: It's a good idea, but only if you think there is no one else you can use the franchise tag on. Once you use it, you lose it. If they're thinking about using it on anybody else, the only other option would be Shayne Graham.

The price is certainly manageable ($2.5 million) and it would fill one of the many holes that greet them when free agency opens.

Tagging and trading Houshmandzadeh would probably mean you lose Graham, the club's most accurate kicker ever.

The most persuasive argument against tagging a kicker is that you can get one anywhere at anytime as opposed to one of the most reliable receivers the Bengals have ever had.

After all, they got Graham himself off the waiver wire in what was supposed to be a stopgap more than anything a week before the start of the regular season.

And Graham takes a lot of heat for two misses in his career Pittsburgh in '06 and last year against Philly, but there is certain callousness to that.

It's hard to chuck away a 90 percent kicker and consider this late-game stat from Elias culled by Bengals assistant public relations director P.J. Combs: With the chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Graham is 7-for-9. With the chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter he's 3-for-4. He's 0-for-1 in OT and the reason that is such a blemish because it came in the '06 finale and if he makes it they make the playoffs. But given those other numbers, it's not fair to paint his entire career as un-clutch.

Would you rather have an extra third- and fifth-rounder in a T.J trade? Or Graham?

Good question if that's indeed what it comes down to.

The ideal thing would be to sign one of these guys before free agency starts. But the fact they didn't ink guys like Houshmandzadeh and Graham before this past season indicates there was a wide difference in the views of the upcoming market.

With the clock ticking, that could change over the next two weeks but with the market uncertain enough to match the economy, it could stay that way until the bell.

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