Hobson's Choice: Good business, good sports

Q: I've been watching Marvin change everything about the culture of the Bengals, and it's great to see the team step up this year to sign their core to long term deals. Still, I have to ask if the pendulum hasn't swung too far in the other direction.

Was it really necessary for the Bengals to make Jeremi Johnson the highest paid fullback in the NFL and does it really make sense to give big Willie, as great as he is, left tackle money making him the highest paid right tackle in the league? What are your thoughts on the deals that have been done this year?
**--Devin, Seattle, WA

DEVIN:** Those are two deals I love because they win championships. Being the highest-paid fullback isn't going to break anyone, but what I love is by 2010, the price is going to be just right. And with Willie, it's more than money, and money doesn't win Super Bowls. Calling Dan Snyder.

These two contracts strike right at what used to be my two pet peeves of the past when it came to the Bengals signing players. One is they wouldn't do anything until they had to and the other is that sometimes they are guided too much by birthdays instead of game days.

Take Johnson. You've got one of the top young fullbacks in the league that is so valuable in what you do in your elite running game, pay him now instead of trying to re-sign him next year as a free agent.

They just saved themselves 50 percent. Get them early. Pay them now. Spend less later. Signing guys early, with one, two, even three years left on their deals is going to save you loads down the road. Of course, you have to be sold on your guy, your system, and what your coaches are doing and that all seems to be in play here.

They did it with Chad and he had four years left. They did it with Jeremi. They did it with the two tackles. It's brilliant. It's creative. It's also good economics.

Take Willie. He's a heck of a businessman himself (THINK BIG, INC., Fatburger) and he admitted not a lot of teams would have given a 31-year-old right tackle that big of an extension.

But what he didn't say is that he's the best right tackle in the league, he hasn't missed a game in this decade, and linemen nowadays routinely play until they are 35 and 36 years old. So if you're using actuary tables, it's a good bet.

Plus, this management that has been accused since its inception of being a cold-hearted monument to capitalism realized what Anderson means not only to its history but also to its very real alive locker room. As great as Anderson is as a player, the Bengals could have probably survived with Stacy Andrews at right tackle. Eventually. But I'm not so sure they could have recovered from his departure from the locker room.

How often do the bottom line guys in any business recognize the heart and soul intangibles? If you're sitting in a cubicle somewhere in the next 24 hours, you have no doubt wondered the same thing.

And believe this, Mike Brown feels more than most bottom-line football guys. He's one of the only guys left where his only bottom line is football.

You have to give Willie a lot of credit, too. He wants to retire a Bengal and that means something in this headhunter day and age.

From a guy who watched Yaz play left field from preschool until he got engaged, yeah, I love it. Its good business and good sports.


Q: Don't you think the Bengals should have kept Ben Wilkerson & DeDe Dorsey and released Ethan Kilmer & Kenny Watson?

Wilkerson almost certainly will be claimed by another team (the Browns?), whereas Kilmer probably would've made it to the practice squad, and Dorsey fills the same 3rd down back need as Watson & is more explosive. I realize Watson is good on special teams, but surely isn't irreplaceable.
**--Ken L., Cincinnati

KEN:** Marvin tipped his hand pretty well last week when he praised Kilmer's speed and athleticism ("things I can't coach,") and said Dorsey has "a ways to go" before he gets in a game. To me, the biggest second guess comes at tight end.

Watson is the kind of guy coaches love and no one else appreciates. He does nothing flashy, just his job. That means the grimy stuff nobody sees, like picking up blitzes and being in the right spot on checkdown passes. If he doesn't do either in Pittsburgh Sept. 24, the $118 million QB gets hammered.

Clearly they felt Dorsey wasn't ready to do these things, and you just can't entrust that kind of job to a raw rookie, particularly a guy who is still getting used to top-flight competition.

And, it's no knock on Dorsey. The guy's a tremendous talent, so develop him. But getting a third-down back ready to play in a game is a tough nut, which is why the Chris Perry injury is a big problem.

Yes, Watson has been dinged and he's dropped some balls this preseason, but I would hesitate to agree with you that he's not irreplaceable. The fact he has been in this offense four years and games are decided on third down, he just may be.

(Here's what Marvin said of Dorsey: "He's got a ways to go with some other things we need him to get better at in order to be a guy we were going to count on in an NFL game right now. He has a lot to learn in a short period of time.")

As for Kilmer, I'm not so sure the goal was to protect him. It sounds like they want him to play right now on special teams and you know Lewis has been talking about him even before the draft. And another rookie safety, John Busing, has a better chance at getting to the squad because he's undrafted.

And they're going to need those special teamers even more, now that there are only two tight ends and Ahmad Brooks is one of the eight linebackers. Brooks probably isn't going to dress early as he adjusts to playing special teams, and this is my biggest problem with the cutdown: Just two tight ends.

Bob Bratkowski's offense went down the tubes in 2001 and 2002 when they ignored the position and didn't respond to injuries to Tony McGee and Marco Battaglia's illness. One of the differences between Jon Kitna in 2001 and 2002 and his Comeback of the Year season in 2003 was due, in part, because of the emphasis back on tight ends.

And I'm not saying Darnell Sanders or Ronnie Ghent is a future Antonio Gates. All I'm saying is if Kelly or Stewart gets hurt, they've got problems in the running game. That's all. I guess they can go get Ghent on the practice squad if that happens, but how do you know he's going to be there? Then you bring in a guy you can't use because he doesn't know the offense, and now how many formations can you use?

Kind of a useless gamble to me.

Just saw that the Browns traded for Hank Fraley to play center. I think that goes to show they didn't think a young center coming back from a serious knee injury was the answer, or else they would have waited to see if the Bengals cut him.

Everyone loves Wilkerson. He's a great kid who has overcome so much with his devastating knee injury while at LSU. The thing that we have to gather from this is that he's still overcoming. Plus, Ghiaciuc has such an edge on him because he practiced all last year and Wilkerson only worked for three weeks.

If they thought the kid was ready or better than Ghiaciuc, they would have activated him, probably just to keep him away from the Browns. But none of this happened so the hope is he gets to the practice squad and continues to develop. And if he doesn't get claimed, they apparently aren't the only ones who have the same thoughts.


Q: We've heard a lot now about Chris Henry's off the field problems and the possible four game suspension this season from a guilty verdict. Would that be a consequence of only one guilty verdict?

With four pending court cases what is the worst case scenario for Chris? For that matter if you could just clarify what all the scenarios are I think it would clear up a lot of misconceptions in Bengaldom.
**--Jon S., Cincinnati

JON:** Love to clear it up, but thanks to the bureaucracy probably can't. Except this: One more admission of guilt or conviction nets him what has been a four-game suspension because it his second offense.

But he has three legal cases pending. The first one (the Dec. 15 marijuana possession) has already been resolved and he pleaded and took a fine. He's got three left and if he's guilty or pleads in one of them, that's the four-gamer for the second offense.

From what I understand, anything beyond two offenses is up to the commissioner, and anything goes. But no one seems to know when that would happen. At least one of the cases has been continued to next week. The thing that has yet to be answered, would the NFL not do anything until next season at this point? All depends when this stuff comes down, doesn't it?

Anyway, I think the worst-case scenario is the year suspension.

And making it even tougher to know anything is what happened to former Bengals defensive tackle Matthias Askew. He was found not guilty of resisting arrest and other charges filed by Cincinnati police and, in fact, is suing the city for millions after he got Tasered.

Sorry, but as you can see, there really is no answer. But, hey, Kelley Washington is here. When Lewis sat Henry back in December, Washington came up big and here's saying he will again.


Q: Would the Bengals have any interest in signing P-Dub now that Warrick has been cut by the Seahawks? I think the fact that Kelley Washington made the squad had more to do with injuries than his own merit. I would miss the squirrel dance, but would love to see what what Warrick would do with his second chance.

By the way, there is a guy driving around Miami right now with a tiger striped monster Ford Bronco armed with a truck horn. Who Dey.
**--Matt K., Miami, Fla.

MATT:** Way to work, Matt. Start working on that post-Super Bowl procession back to the airport.

No way on Dub. Everyone loves him here, but if he couldn't crack this corps last year, no way he will now. But they really do need Antonio Chatman to start playing.


Q: You mentioned that we didn't sign any college free agents. Isn't Rashad Jeanty a FA (R)?

With only 1 FB and 2 TEs do you think we will see Tab Perry or Whitworth line up occasionally in that role ? I remember Levi played blocking TE a bit his rookie year.
**--Owen A., Rochester, N.Y.

OWEN:** Jeanty, who by the way is one of the NFL's very best stories this season, didn't come from college. He came from three pro seasons in Canada.

That could happen with Whitworth on the goal line and it has already happened with Perry on passing downs. They like Perry as a blocker and use him to pass protect out of that spot on third down.

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