Hobson's Choice: Chad take

Q: Why is all this trade talk being brought up by the media? This is the last thing the Bengals and Chad Johnson need. He has brought wins; he has filled seats, and has made it fun to be a Bengals fan. He isn't perfect, but who is? It seems people always come down on him when they are losing, but they love him when the Bengals are winning. I'm sure he doesn't enjoy losing, either. If the Bengals trade Chad Johnson they are going to lose fans. I think everyone needs to realize what he has done for this city and football team. Do you agree?
--Tim, Bellbrook, OH

TIM: The media didn't bring it up, but somebody has and I'm not sure who. The only thing I know is, as of now, Chad, the Suspension Bridge, and Fountain Square aren't going anywhere.

Was Marvin Lewis the source for the ESPN story? He says no and I'm going to believe him because I think he knows that the club has no intention of trading one of its top players, particularly after this season.

It's also my impression that Lewis didn't leave any doors open at the Monday news conference. The story that they would consider trading him at the end of the season, he said, had no credibility.

For one thing, the salary cap hit would be too big for 2008, probably close to $5 million. The Bengals would have to absorb the count for three bonuses: the $10.5 million option bonus with his first extension in 2003, plus the $5 million bonus for '06 and the $3.5 million option bonus for '07 that came with the second extension in 2006.

And, frankly, from one week to the next does anyone know if Chris Henry is going to be in the slot or in the slammer? And T.J. Houshmandzadeh's deal is up after '08 and I expect they'll go all out to sign him after this season but how can you trade the speed receiver that's signed through '11?

So, no. Chad is going nowhere.

Now, who would want to float the story?

Again, I believe Lewis. He knows the cap situation and how management feels, and no one covets the vertical threat that Johnson brings to the table more than the head coach because as Lewis has said time and time again, it's the one thing a defense can't stop.

So if it's not Lewis, would it be agent Drew Rosenhaus? A trade would give Rosenhaus the chance to negotiate another blockbuster deal, right? That's what agents do, and there is no one better at it than Drew.

(By the way, gun to my head and I needed a guy to negotiate my way out of the room my top pick would be Rosenhaus with Ralph Cindrich and David Dunn warming up in the pen. Three guys who never flinch at making deals.)

But Rosenhaus would certainly go about it a lot smoother than this, and he has a good relationship with the Bengals front office. The extension he got for Chad in '06 was a hell of a deal because he got so much upfront money from a team that loathes giving out those big lump sums and he still had four years left on the original extension.

And, that negotiation was done under the veil of secrecy at Chad's insistence. Even T.J. didn't know until the end and T.J. knows everything.

OK, so I don't know who would float the story.

But I agree with you for the most part. Johnson has been great for the game and for the town. He's obviously one of the top players in the NFL.

And I agree with Chad that a lot of the great things he does get swallowed up with mindless, petty stuff.

Showing up at Children's Hospital and buying Christmas presents for every kid. The trip to Africa for Feed The Children. The scholarships to his football camp.

But, you're also right that he's not perfect.

This team's chemistry hasn't really been right since his blowup in the locker room at halftime of the Wild Card game two years ago and for that everyone has to take the blame:

Chad for losing his cool. Lewis for apparently not addressing it decisively enough because it still lingers. His teammates for letting him get away with it.

(At least the pundits believe it hasn't been right, but so does the record, 10-12 since.)

Lewis takes a lot of heat for having a double standard when it comes to dealing with Chad. But in this NFL, a head coach also needs help from his players to police the locker room.

The death knell for a coach is when they ring the "He's lost his locker room" bell. But it's the players' locker room and no one else's. If they've got a problem with Chad, and none of them have said publicly that they do, it's well known that it was the Richard Seymours and Mike Vrabels in New England that got Corey Dillon and Randy Moss in line, not the Bill Belichicks.

I'm not sure people realize the incredibly fine line Lewis is walking. If he does lose one of his best players emotionally with a benching and the team suffers on the field, then what happens to the locker room?

Relax. Chad's not going anywhere. But since he's staying, keep those seat belts on and don't move about the cabin.


Q: I was glad to see the running game being productive. I'm hoping that it can be as productive against a tougher Steelers defense. Kenny was undeniably stellar. But I liked what I saw in DeDe Dorsey too. He was quick and had good moves: definitely a more agile, evasive type back than Rudi and Kenny, with potential for breakaway speed. Do you think they will continue to utilize him even after Rudi gets back in the game? I appreciate your comments!
--Jenny E., Sevierville, TN

JENNY: The return of the running game was as glorious as the sun cutting through the fog of a Smokies morning. Is it my imagination or was Dorsey's spin-in-the-hole move something not seen here since James Brooks?

The one thing the Bengals have been hesitant about Dorsey is his small-school pedigree and his rawness when it comes to blocking and catching, and that's why it took so long to see him. The Colts apparently had the same concerns because they didn't use him last year from scrimmage.

And some of that crept into Lewis' news conference Monday.

"There's a lot more to playing running back in the NFL than carrying the football. You've got to be able to make sure you keep that ball secure at all times, you've got to know where you are in the protections and everything that way," Lewis said. "That's important for DeDe to keep progressing that way. He's not been with us a great deal of time, so in my opinion he's learned fast. We've gotten some comfort with him in those areas."

So the fact that the Steelers have one of the best and most complex set of blitzes in the NFL may dictate that he doesn't see as much time this week.

But, agreed that the kid is a breath of fresh air and the hope is he gets more time because he gives some of that sizzle and sauce the Bengals were supposed to get from Chris Perry and Kenny Irons.

Don't know Rudi's status yet, but his 123-yard game against Pittsburgh on Oct. 3, 2004 and Edgerrin James' 124-yard effort in November of 2005 are the only 100-yard rushing days against the Steelers in the last 56 games.

Conventional wisdom is that power backs like Rudi don't have as much success against the Steelers as do cutback runners, which is something Watson and Dorsey can do.

But Rudi has had some good games against the Steelers. He just missed getting 100 (he had 98 yards on 21 carries) when they won the division at Heinz in the 38-31 win in '05.

If he does play, you figure he may not be full go, so a committee of Rudi (eight carries), Dorsey (seven carries)and Watson (15 carries) would give you that 30 they need to stay balanced against the Pittsburgh blitz.

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