Hobson's Choice: Euros and Dollars

Geoff: Do NFL teams that assign players to NFL Europe risk losing such players? Could that be the reason the Bengals' inexperienced but promising tackle, Stacy Andrews, isn't assigned to NFL Europe? If not, why hasn't the club sent this guy across the pond to gain some valuable and much needed experience? Thanks.

Jeff from North Carolina

Now that we have tagged Rudi what do you think the chances our of signing him to a long term deal? If we do sign him to a deal what does that mean for Perry? To me it seemed we drafted Perry to groom him and turn our offense into something similar to what the Colts do, would we try to trade Rudi? I wouldn't agree with having that much money wraped into our running backs.

Thank you,

Dave (Springboro) JEFF, DAVE:
With Rudi coming back from Hawaii this week, we might as well hit Europe, too.

The four Bengals going to NFL Europe are under contract, so they can't be picked up by another team. But they can get hurt, which is why the Bengals have always been reluctant to send guys. Now, every team has to send at least three, but the Bengals always seem to get bit.

The last time was three years ago when former defensive tackle Mario Monds needed reconstructive knee surgery. Even after that, former linebackers Dwayne Levels and Tito Rodriguez came back from their stints banged up.

It seems that Andrews, their 360-pound prize at offensive tackle that they took in the fourth round in the last draft, isn't going to NFL Europe for a variety of reasons. They are very high on this kid as an athlete, but he's still quite raw (remember, just 70 or so snaps in college) and they want to teach him football here in the context of this system and need to do it in the May and June camps. Plus, their two starting tackles are both still trying to bounce back from arthroscopic knee surgeries and you can't afford to get Andrews hurt, too. You also need him here for the spring camps to take the snaps that Willie Anderson and Levi Jones won't get, because you figure they'll get time off the knees to get ready for training camp.

By the way, it looks like the hallway discussions about moving Andrews from offensive tackle to defensive tackle are going to stay there. Offensive tackles are simply rarer than Dtackles, and they think that Andrews has that unique gift of blending size and strength with athleticism.

As for Rudi, it certainly looks like a longshot for a long-term deal before March 16. I think it could get done if you put Paul Brown and Peter Schaffer in a room for three days, but that has yet to happen. Maybe it will now. Schaffer's one hope to prove to the Bengals what he thinks Johnson is worth on the open market has been taken away with the franchise tag. If Rudi truly wants a long-term deal here, he's now got the leverage because the Bengals don't want to carry that $6.3 million salary for all of '05. If I'm him, I would have signed the tender as it went through the fax machine because it puts heat on the team to lower the cap number.

The presence of Perry gives them the option of trading Johnson, and if nothing gets done before March 16 you have to figure they'll consider that a viable option with a Miami, Oakland, or Tampa Bay. Maybe before then. Perry looks to be more versatile than Johnson in the passing game, but he's unproven. If Johnson does go long term, Perry is the type of back that can be a terrific complement to Johnson's bruising style. It's not exact, but think James Brooks and Ickey Woods.

I still think the best thing for the Bengals would have been to pursue Johnson aggressively after the '03 season. Would Schaffer have rolled over? Of course not. You would have had to overpay a guy with just five NFL starts. But you could rationalize it by knowing it would be a heck of a lot cheaper than after '04 if he did something like, oh, break Corey Dillon's season rushing record.

Sometimes you talk yourself out of players. Yes, he had just five NFL starts. Yes, he hadn't played a full NFL season. Yes, he almost got cut before the season. Yes, he doesn't have game-breaking speed.

But you look at the '03 tape and he certainly showed in those 215 carries he's a play-off type back. Not an elite back, but a solid back, and that seems to be the problem in negotiations to this day: The difference between a solid and elite back. Maybe the Bengals drafted Perry No. 1 because they couldn't get Johnson to talk on their '03 terms. It's hard to knock the Bengals for that, but it's always better to pay me now instead of pay me later

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