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Hobson's Choice: Forever young

Q: I noticed recently that Atlanta released Alge Crumpler (Rod Coleman as well). What do you think the market will be like for Crumpler? I know that he is not defense and has injury/age issues, but I feel as though he is exactly what the Bengals need as far as locker room leadership and helping take pressure off of T.J. on third downs. I know that Marvin has said recently that he was looking to adjust his priorities when looking for a TE (athletic first, then develop blocking). I was wondering if we will see any interest in Crumpler from the Bengals?
--Kyle, Blacksburg, Va.

KYLE: Doubt it. After a season of tangling with health issues, it's hard to see them dropping big-time money on a 30-year-old offensive player with knee problems. And Crumpler is going to get big money, maybe from Carolina.

In fact, none of the guys let go late last week figure to get play here because of the age issue as the specter of Sam Adams lives.

Agreed that Crumpler would be a fine locker-room stabilizer in the tradition of Reggie Kelly, the man that he replaced in Atlanta when Kelly came over to the Bengals in 2003.

But Marvin's use of the word "athletic" sounded like a code word for "young," so the implication is they're going to finally pull a tight end out of the draft.

That's probably the right way to go. The free-agent dollars should be earmarked for defense, and maybe wide receiver for insurance on Chris Henry and Tab Perry. And, running back if nothing surfaces in the draft. All those have to be ahead of a free-agent tight end, wouldn't you think?

Now, if, as Lewis hinted, they're actually going to start throwing the ball to the tight end, that may be a different story and instead of spending money on a veteran back or third receiver, now may be you look at a receiving tight end.

But probably not a 30-year-old and probably not Matt Schobel if the Eagles do release him. It'd be great to get Schobel back now that they seem to be looking for a receiver, but they didn't throw it to him the first time around.

Q: To franchise tag Stacy Andrews again makes us the laughingstock of the NFL. By my calculations, we now have $20 million against this year's cap tied up with three tackles. Does this mean Big Willie is gone? Why wouldn't we tag Madieu? At about $4.3 million for safeties, with the production he brings, it seems like a much better deal than $7.5 million for a player with only 17 NFL starts. Why are we not dumping money into our defense? Somewhere! ANYWHERE! This is pathetic and I hope you can shed some light on this decision and possible decisions to come heading into free agency. Thanks for the insight.
--CT, Pittsburgh, PA

CT: Insight or incite?

No, not ideal. But not pathetic, either. No question. It's frustrating to pay a guy $441,000 per start. But if that's the cost to protect Carson Palmer, where do I sign up?

This wasn't the plan when they locked up their bookend tackles into the next decade within a month of each other just before the 2006 season. If they knew both Willie Anderson and Levi Jones were going to get hurt, they would have given a chunk of that money to Andrews, even though he had yet to make an NFL start.

Which is why hindsight is better than the best thing you can think of.

To have about $19 million rolled into one position is brutal. But the offensive line is everything for a team based on offense. ... Remember how it all fell apart when Max Montoya left?

Let's see. The options? They think Willie can go, but they're not lock-step sure. This wasn't a move to dump Anderson. But it was a move made in the context of insurance as they anticipate how Willie shows up in March.

So they could have let Andrews go and try to do it at right tackle with a tag team of Anderson and Scott Kooistra if it turned out Anderson gave them what he gave them last year.

They clearly didn't want to go that route and probably not because of Kooistra, a solid NFL backup, but because Andrews' versatility at guard gives them some flexibility.

Hell, after what has happened to them on the line the past two years, maybe the first lineman off the bench should be paid like a starter.

But to give a guy $7.5 M, yeah, you wish he'd gone to a Pro Bowl on his own instead of going to watch his brother. Then again, to give away a good young tackle in the Carson Palmer era with two tackles coming off knee injuries would have been grounds for negligence.

That would have been a laughingstock.

I'm not sure anyone can be upset because a defensive player didn't get tagged. As much as I like Madieu Williams and Justin Smith as men and players, the bottom line is that the Bengals continue to be at the bottom. You talk about production, but does anyone on that side of the ball get high marks for consistent production?

Plus, it's a position thing. A big, athletic tackle is rarer than a safety. They'd love to get Madieu to re-sign, but when it comes to making a difference over the past four years since they were drafted, Stacy probably gets the nod there just because of where he plays. And they have more depth at safety than tackle.

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