Hobson's Choice: Don't look for them

Q: With the Giants release of LaVar Arrington, his contract was only paying $900,000 with a lot of incentives. Could we assume his contract and if he's not healthy just release him again mid-year? **--Ed, Cincinnati, OH

ED:** The Bengals wouldn't assume anything because they can do their own deal. But we can also assume given his injuries, he's not in the Bengals' plans right now, if ever.

As much as Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis loves Arrington as a guy and as good as Arrington played for Lewis that one year in Washington with 11 sacks (the only year he had more than six), it just doesn't seem like a fit.

The last thing Lewis needs is an ex-Pro-Bowler who has a hard time staying on the practice field because of injuries. Even before Arrington blew out his Achilles last October, a bad knee injury from late 2004 kept him from going every day in training camp and during the season this past year with the Giants.

The guy was a hell of a talent, but he had just 16 tackles in six games in New York with just one sack, and he'll be 29 next season.

Arrington hasn't responded to inquiries since Tuesday, but he did hint to some New York media he may think about retirement.

You could always do something like a minimum salary thing and see what he's got in training camp. Maybe. A real maybe. But you have to believe if a good outside linebacker is there in the draft at No. 18, they'd take him.


Q: Don't you think the Bengals need to do their best to get another solid CB, and stock up their defense as much as possible? I say drop Tory James, and make a move on Dre' Bly.
**--Xavier K., Jacksonville, FL

XAVIER:** Absolutely on the corner. But give me another Johnathan Joseph in the draft instead of another disgruntled Pro Bowler in a trade.

After hearing what Lewis had to say last week, consider James dropped and too many hoops to be jumped through for Bly.

Bly is heading into the last year of a deal giving him $4.2 million, so he's essentially a major free agent because you'd also have to strike a long-term deal with him as well as give up something in a trade that the Bengals don't have.

It would probably take a third-rounder and the Bengals don't have one so they can't go giving up a second-rounder.

With the Bengals expected to franchise defensive end Justin Smith as their only major free-agent deal, Bly is off limits. But even if Smith gets franchised, they can still sign a major player and drop the tag. Or trade Smith.

But don't look for Smith-for-Bly straight up. There are some that believe if Deltha O'Neal can play like he did in '05, he's better than Bly.


Q: I have read in national publications that the Bengals lack the appropriate level of scouts. It is a common criticism among sports writers that the Bengals coaching staff is stretched too thin to properly evaluate talent.

Why do the Bengals seem to go against the grain of what most NFL clubs do by employing few scouts and no GM?
** --Josh in Section 151, Covington, KY

JOSH:** It comes down to the philosophy founded with the franchise when Paul Brown formed the Bengals in 1967 for the '68 season. He felt the guys that coach the players should have the say in who they coached instead of another layer of people called "the scouts."

Ever since teams began developing bigger and bigger scouting staffs, it has been gist for the furious mill of debate and heightened even more with Paul and later Mike Brown sticking to the P.B. creed despite the league trend.

The critics call the personnel staffing "inappropriate." The Bengals call it "less bureaucratic."

When head coach Marvin Lewis arrived in 2003, Mike Brown agreed to expand the personnel staff in order to take the coaches off the road more so they could spend more time on football. It appears that the Bengals coaches don't spend an inordinate amount of time on the road in March and April compared to the rest of the NFL, but they do a lot.

I think one legit criticism is that the Bengals can use one or two more scouts solely dedicated to pro personnel. That would take a little bit more burden off the scouts and, in turn, the coaches, but would also keep true to the P.B. model and I think that's important and it's a good one.

Exhibit A: The Marty Schottenheimer-A.J. Smith flap in San Diego that brought down a 14-2 team. Exhibit B: The ongoing soap opera in Detroit with Matt Millen and any of his coaches with this week being Mike Martz.

(Look, these guys in personnel must be doing something right. The first thing anyone ever says about the Bengals is that they're one of the most talented teams in the league.)

I also think Mike and Marvin have proven they don't need a GM between them. Since they've been a team, the Bengals are just one of five NFL clubs not to have a losing record in the past four seasons with the others the Colts, Patriots, Broncos and Seahawks.

A 39-yard field goal and the Bengals join the Patriots, Colts, Giants, Bears and Seahawks as the only teams with back-to-back playoff berths.

Sure, they're not perfect when it comes to staffing. Who is? But I'm not sure they're on the lunatic fringe, either.

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