Hobson's Choice: Keep the pick

Do you think that if there is no new collective bargaining agreement that the Bengals will benefit?

As a team which is pretty far under the cap for next year, it would seem they could stay mostly intact while many other teams will have to drop solid players just to make cap space. Or am I missing something?
Scott, Cincinnati

After Vernon Davis showing in the 40-yd at ths combine and given his physical stature do you think the Bengals would trade up to get him? A TE like that doesn't come along every year (though they are coming along more frequently in the last 3-5 years) and then go after defensive help in the later rounds? If they stay where they are now I don't see a real impact defensive payer coming in at that slot.
** Cam, Chillicothe, OH

SCOTT AND CAM:** No, you're on it about the CBA and where other clubs stand with the Bengals. The bad news is that none of the bleeding teams are in the AFC North. The good news (bad news?) is it's looking more and more like a CBA is coming down in the next few days, which figures to bail out the strapped teams with a '06 salary cap that could be as much as $102 million, according to reports.

As for Davis, trading up and losing a potential starting defensive player later in the first day of the draft when there is such a strong field of tight ends doesn't make much sense to me. He's not the only one that ran well.

Sure, Maryland's Davis logged the fastest combine 40 ever by a tight end at 4.38 seconds Monday and the Bengals are seeking a true stretch-the-field weapon at that position. And, Bengals tight ends coach Jon Hayes said he thinks Davis is a guy that could be in there in the first month.

But they still have to stop somebody on defense if they want to advance in the playoffs. Maybe I'm wrong here, but defense must be their top priority and if they have to give up a third-round pick or more to get another offensive playmaker, what are they doing?

I agree that there isn't going to be an impact defensive player at No. 24 (although there is going to be an intriguing corner or two), but, let's face it. We really don't know because somebody is going to be there who shouldn't have been there.

Plus, the Bengals ought to be able to get an effective tight end in the second or third round without giving up anything. Colorado's Joe Klopfentstein and Georgia's Leonard Pope both ran 4.62 and UCLA's Marcedes Lewis flashed his basketball skills. Lewis didn't rank high in the testing, but he's also a coveted guy who is an excellent athlete.

What's amazing is that Davis out-broad jumped all the other tight ends by nearly a foot. But Lewis and Pope were the guys behind him at 9-10.

Oh, oh. We're doing what Marvin Lewis always warns us not to do. We're talking about test numbers instead of watching tape. In the name of Dan Wilkinson, Marshall Faulk, and Mel Kiper, you can't get infatuated with underwear workouts, although it's pretty clear Davis is a special guy. But they will still get a shot at a good tight end without having to give up something.

As for the CBA, you've got it right, Scott. The Bengals don't have to jettison a soul because of cap problems. Unfortunately, neither do Cleveland or Baltimore, and Pittsburgh might have to lose only a guy or two.

But the way things are going, it looks like a CBA is being cobbled together as we speak. That means free agency may open March 10 instead of this Friday.

An agreement would give those strapped teams a lot of relief by giving them nearly an additional $15 million in cap room over last year if it hits the $102 milion mark. Small-market teams such as the Bengals argue they can't take a $15 mllion rise without more revenue sharing from the bigger clubs.

If if they do get a CBA before free agency, teams not only get more money, but they also can go back to the old rules. The biggest things helping the overdrawn teams would be that they can return to pro-rating signing bonuses over more than four years and accounting charges can be dumped into years beyond 2006 when a player is released.

Part of the CBA deal involves the owners' intramural battle over revenue sharing. If the Redskins' Daniel Snyder weeps about giving up such a chunk of his revenue to the Bengals, Jaguars, and Colts of the world, he should be mollified that the new huge cap number and existing rules from the CBA extension is going to allow him to stay competitive in the NFC East. If there was no CBA, Washington would be picked second in the Big East after being forced to make all their cuts.

The new number doesn't figure to affect the Bengals' strategy. Indications are they are going to sign a veteran backup quarterback and then put their energies into signing some of their offensive linemen that are free after '06 if a CBA is in place.

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