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Hobson's Choice: Issues And Answers

Two potential free agents: cornerback William Jackson III (22) and Mackensie Alexander.
Two potential free agents: cornerback William Jackson III (22) and Mackensie Alexander.

If you had to pick one...1.) Sign a high end guard and head to the draft needing a tackle, 2.) Sign a high end tackle and head to the draft needing a guard(s) 3.) Spend our cap signing both a guard and tackle and why? Chad Neichter, Columbus, OH

CHAD: Is None Of The Above available?

If the Bengals sign anything high end, shouldn't it be on defense? I think you can make the argument that there are more holes on the defensive line when you look what's needed on the edge and inside.

You can upgrade at guard without breaking the bank with a high end offensive line signing. Upgrades don't have to be limited to personnel, either. Improvements can also be made via scheme and technique.

I guess mark me down for trying to hold the line (pardon the pun) on guard money with the intent of funneling the big bucks to perimeter players. And a high end tackle would cost even more than that. But with the drafting of tackle Jonah Williams No. 1 in 2019 and the potential of getting another one in the first two rounds this year, you don't also need to make that gargantuan investment in free agency.

Hello Butch, great job love Hobson's choice, Question: every year I see teams getting creative restructuring contracts to get under the cap but the Bengals don't. To compete shouldn't they be spending every dollar possible? Troy Chapman, Prospect, OH

TROY: Thank you for reading and taking the time to write.

I think the Bengals would argue that it takes more creativity to avoid re-structuring deals to get under the cap. They don't do it, traditionally, because they don't have to do it. They manage it well enough the first time around that they're not forced to create room.

They go year by year and prefer not to push unworkable numbers into future years. Their selling point to the player is that it's real money. And it allows them flexibility to trade or cut a big money player like Carlos Dunlap without taking a devastating cap hit. If they were to cut defensive tackle Geno Atkins, their second biggest cap hit this year at $14.7 million, the charge would be $5.2 million, according to Not ideal, but not paralyzing, either.

As for spending every dollar, last year had them for $199,284,308 in a year the cap was $198.2 million. That's even a huger number when you consider that they were writing checks in the most uncertain economic outlook since the Great Depression.

With the selections in free agency you and the draft last year on defense, along with trading Dunlap and possibly letting Geno go, it looks as if Lou is trying to transition to a 3-4. What do you think? Michael Ford, Milford, OH

MICHAEL: Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has been pretty up front about the switch to the 3-4. It's far from a pure 3-4. He prefers to call it a hybrid because 70 percent of the time it's a four-man line against passing personnel groups and they never have four backers out there. If anything, they'll have three safeties.

So it's pretty much in name only and it's more about structure than anything. He believes the hybrid 3-4 gives them the flexibility to offer different looks against weapons like the zone read and mobile quarterbacks. But that hasn't changed the type of defensive linemen they seek. For instance, Carl Lawson is regarded as a 4-3 edge rusher, but he still fits what they do against 11 personnel, as does Geno's three-technique pass rush even though he's not a textbook 3-4 tackle.

It's taken awhile for them to find their footing in the scheme. But if you take away the Ravens' 525-yard frenzy in the finale when the Bengals were missing five starters, they played well enough to win most of their games in the second half of a season their offense averaged 15 points per game.

Geoff, Why are there not more Bengals in the Hall of Fame? Living in the Dallas area, I constantly hear about the lobbyists that are twisting arms of the voters for Cowboys. Do the Bengals have promoters? Why not the Brown family? Michael Gray, Grand Prairie, TX

MICHAEL: Certainly down through the years has promoted the careers of several worthy Bengals with the full embrace of ownership. There has been no lack of promotional efforts. You can see that in Google.

As a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, has spent years lobbying fellow voters for not only senior candidates Ken Riley and Ken Anderson, but modern era players such as Willie Anderson and Corey Dillon. I wouldn't call it arm-twisting, though.

Here's why there is only one Bengal (Anthony Muñoz) in the Hall of Fame. And people are sick of hearing me say it. The Hall has too many good players from great teams and not enough great players from good teams. That's why the Hall is overloaded with Cowboys from the '60s and '70s while the '70s and '80s Bengals have no one but Anthony.

Since the salary cap has been in around, how often have the Bengals been under the cap? How much cash was saved in that period? And what happens to that money? I assume the Brown family pockets the difference. Is this their only income? Bernard Meleski, Plain City, OH

BERNARD: The Bengals have been a high-spending team under the salary cap system. Down through the years we have shared with readers sources ranging from the NFL to the NFL Players Association to, etc., all of whom make clear that the Bengals have spent more than most teams throughout the salary cap era, and have been roughly the 10th highest spending team in the NFL (depending on your metric).

Last year was no different with massive contracts for A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, William Jackson III, Carlos Dunlap, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, as well as the additions of Trae Waynes, D.J. Reader and Vonn Bell.

According to their calculations, the Bengals have been under the salary cap by about $10 million total over that entire time period. A remarkable feat for anyone that's done a budget. To put that in perspective since the advent of the cap, the total salary cap during that period of time for each team has been more than $1.5 billion. So that means that the Bengals have spent about $1.49 billion and have been at the cap essentially every year. Amounts that don't get spent during any one time period are carried over to the next time period, per collective bargaining rules, so the money always stays dedicated to the team.

With players like Reader, Waynes and Bell playing defense at the same time, they're banking on the investments to look even better off the paper and on the field.

Do you see more need to take a tight end or receiver early. With John Ross leaving and probably A.J. Green I think a top receiver would be a plus. Use free agency on starting linemen either offensive or defensive. Bill Hoopes, Jacksonville, FL

BILL: I agree with you on that. Get the receiver (make that a speed receiver) in the draft. Although, it's not as easy as it sounds. Everybody loves to say. "There's always a receiver in the draft." But you know what? Those guys that have the right size (6-2ish) and have the 4.4-4.5 speed? They run out sooner than you think and don't hang around until the third round.

Paul Dehner, Jr., The Athletic's estimable Bengals columnist, did a nice job with what he would call a deep dive on a Mock Draft that had the Bengals taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts at No. 5.

The Bengals just use 11 personnel too much (three receivers and one tight end) to warrant such a high pick on a tight end. Plus, they don't have a history of taking tight ends until the 20s in the first round (Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert), and the teams that do go with tight ends high almost never get their bang for the buck. Plus, they're pleased with what C.J. Uzomah gives them in the pass game and No. 5 is a little rich for Pitts. The Media Mock has him going 16 to Arizona.

Who do you think is going to be the Bengals number one overall draft pick next year? Karl Happ, Munich, Bavaria

KARL: Pure guess. Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell or LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. Who is ever there at No.5.

Geoff, always good to read you. Why won't the Bengals offense use Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard at the same time. There is so much you can do with Gio. Wing him out like Darren Sproles. Spilt the backs in the old T formation. Dale Miller, Cincinnati, OH

DALE: Good to hear from you again and thank you for continuing to read. With the arrival of quarterback Joe Burrow and the advent of the empty backfield formation, that has put them on the field together more than they have been since Joe Mixon arrived in 2017. It seems to me that head coach Zac Taylor has become more and more open to it and he's done some nice things with Giovani Bernard running in motion as part of a two-man backfield.

But it's hard to see it becoming a staple with the emphasis on 11 personnel, the need for blockers and Bernard's ability to pick up the blitz on third down.

Moving forward what are the plans for our backfield? Marvin Turner, Cincinnati, OH

MARVIN: Mixon signed a $50 million extension before last season, so he's the bell cow for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen what they think of third-year player Trayveon Williams, but there's not the sense that he's going to shoot ahead of Giovani Bernard as the backup as Bernard heads into his ninth season off a year he had nearly 200 touches and Williams had 31.

But that's a lot of years for a running back and they're always looking for young legs there, anyway. Only James Brooks, Archie Griffin and Essex Johnson have done what Bernard has done and played eight seasons at running back for the Bengals. He'll be the first one to hit nine if they stand pat.

Do you think that Joe Burrow will start week 1? Alex Kinney, Kettering, OH

ALEX: After watching Bengals rehab boss Nick Cosgray work with Carson Palmer (ACL) as well as other Opening Day starters such as Clint Boling (ACL) and Leon Hall (Achilles) down through the years and viewing how fiercely Burrow played in his first 10 NFL games, put me down for a YES.

Hi, first time writer, but long time reader! I know many questions right now are dealing with FA & the draft so I thought I would go another route. Do you have any insight at all about the new unis? Would love to see more simple & retro! THX Jamie A., Wheelersburg, OH

JAMIE: Thank you very much for taking the time to write and I hope it's not the last time. The last thing they want me to do is to spoil the surprise, so I probably have more information about the 2022 Paris fall fashions. From what I hear, classic is good.