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Hobson's Choice: In and out cap

Hello Geoff,

with the acquisition of Bryan Robinson to the Bengals Defence, are they not dangerously close to the Cap mark? does that imply that there will be no other free agent signings this season? if they are indeed nearing the cap mark, how are the Bengals going to go about signing their 2005 draft picks?

even if they restructure Rudi's contract to be more 'cap friendly', I don't see how that will free up enough money to sign another quality free agent(s), as well as, this years draft picks.

Vincent, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada VINCENT:**
From what I can gather, the Bengals are at the point now where if they make any kind of a major free-agent move, they would have to respond with a similar release to make room under the salary cap.

They should be able to fit in some things before then, such as re-signing center Rich Braham, and they don't have to worry about signing their draft picks (figure about $3 million) until the week before training camp.

So, theoretically, the Robinson signing doesn't eliminate them from a major addition if they are prepared to make a major cut. But, at the moment, that guy doesn't look to be out there. That could change as other guys get cut around the league leading up to and after the draft.

Right now, they're focused on trying to wrap up running back Rudi Johnson long-term, but I'm not sure how cap-friendly that deal is going to be. They have already carved out $6.3 million for his one-year salary and since they already have that figured in, they may just use it up in a long-term deal that is heavy in the first couple of years.

Since the Bengals don't like to operate cash-over-cap and push big signing bonus money into future years, they have tried to use "real money" as enticements instead of what they see as phony, six-year, $30 million deals in which the guy probably won't see half of that before he's cut.

Remember, a big selling point when Corey Dillon signed his five-year deal in May of 2001 was that $18 million of the $25 million came in the first three years. Two years ago in free agency, the Bengals lured linebacker Kevin Hardy with $5 million that first year in salary and bonuses, and cornerback Tory James with about a $6 million payout in the first year.

Look for the Bengals to try and get Johnson in similar fashion and put the majority of the money early in the deal, so they may end up using much or all of that $6 million.

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