Hobson's Choice: Don't sell out Perry

Q: I recently moved to Chicago from Cincy. It's good to see us back on track so I can say something positive about my team amid all this Super Bowl talk in the Windy City. That is, if Rex Grossman doesn't throw away the rest of their games!

Is it time to give up on Chris Perry yet? We know we were taking a chance on a Big Ten running back not named Eddie George, but does this guy have brittle bone disease or what? Kenny Watson performs admirable as our third and long back. We could use Fragile Perry's spot for another offensive lineman or a linebacker if we go to the 3-4. What do you think?
**--Earnest D., Chicago

EARNEST:** For the life of me I've never understood the bitterness surrounding the view of Perry. When healthy, he more than proved he's worthy of the first-round pick. What do people want? He's fast, has great hands and gives this offense a badly needed dimension because of the lack of a down-the-field threat at tight end.

How do you know he'll have the health of Ki-Jana Carter instead of Jimmy Carter? I don't know how you can rip the kid or team for always being hurt, unless you add an East Coast seer, or something, to the personnel department.

(Perry is a better fit, anyway, than Steven Jackson because of the type of offense the Bengals run, and Jackson has the same style as Rudi, so what would have been the point?)

That said, they'll have to see how Perry's surgically-repaired broken leg responds. They may have to make a decision based on that, but if he's healthy, why give up on him? He's a weapon. You'd like to see him warm to the backup role a little more, but the guy's big pride is a reason he 's so talented.

As for giving up his spot to another position, the Bengals already cut it close by keeping just four backs that include fullback Jeremi Johnson. What if Watson gets hurt? I would think running back Quincy Wilson gets activated from the practice squad at some point before Thursday's game, but who knows?

The 3-4 looks to be a moot point until they can get some definitive answers on the futures of David Pollack and Odell Thurman. Those are two linebackers you need to make it go.

Q: With Caleb Miller and Kevin Kaesviharn making so many big plays, can we possibly bench them when the starters get healthy again?
**--Brian A. Des Moines, IA

BRIAN:** With Kaesviharn, it actually works out better that Dexter Jackson is back because now he can concentrate on his strength - passing downs - and play more on special teams.

As for Miller, you're right, it's a tough call because he seems to be playing so well on first and second down. His strength is also pass coverage so I would imagine when Brian Simmons comes back they would still be able to get Miller on the field quite a bit in various "sub" packages. Plus, he wouldn't be wasted because his activity on special teams would get doubled if his scrimmage snaps lessened.

I've got to believe they'd be more comfortable rotating Miller because he's so small. And, yes, you have to use Simmons if he's healthy.

They've sorely lacked his experience out there in the middle as well as his ability to make something happen with a turnover or tipped ball. Look it up. No one has been involved in more game-changing plays in big games on this defense than Simmons.

What it does is give them more flexibility. They won't be stuck with basically one personnel group like they are now. You can be a big-time contributor and play half the snaps. Some guys hit better with 300 at-bats instead of 500, right?

Look at Kaesviharn. After playing regular last week, he played primarily on passing downs last Sunday and had two interceptions and a sack.

Q: Please talk a little bit about where you see the team going with free agency in the offseason. With the injuries on the O-line, I think Steinbach has proven his worth, but I also have been pleasantly surprised with the play of Justin Smith.

Realizing that only one will likely be kept (if either), and the exceptional play of the newcomers recently on the O-line, has Steinbach become expendable and has his play only served to score him a sweeter contract elsewhere? Is Smith the odd man out because he's not a Marvin guy?
**--Douglas F., Cincinnati, OH

DOUG:** In an ideal world, Steinbach would seem to be the center of the future. But how can you blame him if he seeks tackle money and how can you blame the Bengals if they don't feel they can afford to give him tackle money after locking up bookends Willie Anderson and Levi Jones for the long term?

The Bengals are one of a very few teams, if not the only one, that have paid top five money for both tackles so it just doesn't seem to be a fit, particularly with young guards who can also play tackle like Andrew Whitworth and Stacy Andrews. To me, the bigger question is if they can lock up Andrews eventually.

And no question that Steinbach has really helped himself. He's proven he can play all the spots – at least in emergency situations - as well as being a Pro Bowl type of guard. Great team guy, good guy, he'll hit the lottery whether it's here or elsewhere, and I'm sure the Bengals won't let him walk away without talking. Believe me, they want him back.

Same thing with Smith. He's another guy they'd like to keep. But he's going to command a huge number simply because he's a pass rusher. Those are traditionally the guys that go in the first eight hours of free agency with mind-numbing deals that a lot of time belie their past production.

You could make an argument to put the franchise tag on him, but that's going to gobble up nearly $10 million in cap room. Those are virtually Carson Palmer numbers and if you're not making TDs, I'm not sure the Bengals do that.

Don't get me wrong. They love the guy and want to keep him. He's a tough, durable, and extremely productive player who plays all three downs.

But he may be able to fetch a number that is worthy of a 12-15-a-year-sack guy even though if he hits double digits this year it will be for the first time in his six-year career.

Plus, you have to take into consideration they have a young right end like a Robert Geathers headed to double-digits in his third season. So would you rather pay the young guy?

Tough calls because you'd love to have both of them, but they have to figure out if they fit the big picture.

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