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Hobson's Choice: Can't have it both ways

Q: If ticket sales and revenues are up and Mike Brown claims to be interested in building a championship-caliber team, why haven't the Bengals addressed the issue of their limited scouting department?

With the draft on the horizon isn't it time to add a couple more scouts? I realize the difference won't be felt until upcoming years, but I'm sick of hearing media reps talk about the Bengals' lagging scouting department.
**--Jon L., Cincinnati, OH

JON:** This is the same media that continually says the Bengals are one of the most talented and underachieving teams in the NFL. So how bad can the personnel guys be? You can't have it both ways.

Even before the Marvin Lewis era brought a few more scouts, this is the same crew that brought you Willie Anderson, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Rudi Johnson, Levi Jones and Justin Smith.

From that group are the franchise season leaders for rushing and receiving, one of the franchise's top four all-time sackers, and two tackles that anchored the club's best pass protection year ever.

And in the Lewis era the Bengals have come up with three Pro Bowlers discarded by other teams in Tory James, Deltha O'Neal and Shayne Graham.

It's been said here before and I'll say it again. If there's one spot they could use some help, it's probably adding a pro personnel guy or two so they can keep the college guys focused on college.

But then again, since 2003 the Bengals are one of five teams without a losing record, so how bad is the talent?

Yes, they deserve to be scrutinized for drafting questionable characters. But it wasn't because of a lack of information. They didn't draft Odell Thurman because it's a small scouting department.

Yeah, it's a small department. Yeah, it's not ideal. But the perception that they sit around in the dark and pick players with a Ouija board because they don't have enough help is also a little ridiculous.

Q: With the obvious issues we had late in the season with the return game, I haven't heard a lot about Tab Perry's injury and what his status is. Could we get an update?
**--Jeff H., Batesville, IN

JEFF:** They're probably going to ease Perry back because hip injuries aren't always cut and dried, but they still seem hopeful that he's going to be ready.

The last time Marvin Lewis addressed the issue of players being ready for the May camps, the only player he saw not being ready was the other Perry. Running back Chris Perry is still rehabbing from his broken lower leg and ankle injury.

Q: Is there a chance that we could get our third-round pick back as a compensation pick for losing Eric Steinbach? Considering the contract he got from the Browns, would he not be worth around a fourth-rounder at least?
**--Dean, Hamilton, OH

DEAN:** No question, but they won't get that third-round pick back until 2008, which will give them two in the third. That's probably one of the reasons they won't do a big unrestricted free-agent deal themselves so they can keep that third-rounder intact in the compensation formula.

Q: Though the masses of mock-drafters have Cincinnati locked in for a first-round cornerback, there is no consensus on which player will be wearing orange and black.

Do you see them trying to slide down seven or eight picks, still picking up one of those top corners and picking up an extra middle-rounder? The strategy worked OK when we drafted Chris Perry.

Speaking of Perry, he and Kenny Watson have never both been healthy for an extended period of time. If the Bengals are fortunate enough to have both of their legs working in '07, how do you see the carries and snaps breaking down? What about a fourth-rounder (DeShawn Wynn?) getting thrown into the mix? Here's to another outstanding Marvin draft.
**--Dan, Cincinnati, OH

DAN:** The Bengals would no doubt be all for trading down. The way it looks now, there is a distinct possibility the run of corners, safeties, and D-linemen worthy of the first round peter out before No. 18 and no one wants to reach. And a trade down about six or seven places would presumably give them back the third-round pick they lost in the supplemental draft for Ahmad Brooks.

Yet the problem is if they're thinking that way, so are the teams behind them. There is going to have to be a player at No. 18 that some team deep behind them feels like they absolutely have to have. But if the guy is that good, he probably won't be there, anyway. But maybe they get lucky and a coveted offensive player falls. If a coveted defensive player falls, stay right there and take him, right?

Or maybe some team feels like that's the chance to trade for Justin Smith. Who knows?

Drafting a running back on the second day, particularly in the fourth round, is a distinct possibility. With Perry and Watson, they can be accused of stacking, but it sounds like the team is not sure what Perry's health status is going to be by the draft, so they're almost forced into it.

If they're both healthy, it's a good question because Perry and Watson have never been healthy together. Perry would probably get the bulk of the third-down snaps, but Watson would get his share because he's just so productive. The most noticeable difference would probably be that Rudi Johnson would get more breathers with a healthy Perry.

In '05 with Perry and without Watson, Johnson had 337 carries to Perry's 61. Without Perry last season (he had just nine carries), Johnson had 341 to Watson's 25.

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