Hobson's Choice: Keeping Tabs on Perry, Ray

I've heard talk about trying Tab Perry in the secondary next training camp. have you heard anything ? And what do you think about it ?
Ed, Cincinnati

It seems that Ray Lewis is available, what about Ray Ray in Bengal stripes. I know he has been injured but reading the story on ESPN.com it seems he may want out of Baltimore. I say his presence here could mean a Super Bowl in the Queen City.
**Ron, West Chester, OH

ED AND RON:**
Tab Perry as a safety has been discussed, but if the Chris Henry incidents haven't squelched it yet then his fine play as a rookie wide receiver probably has. As for Monday's Ray Lewis stuff about him seeking a trade, it doesn't seem to be on the radar here yet and it's an unlikely fit for a team trying to keep its offensive line together under the salary cap.

Perry is an intriguing guy to play at safety and he was a tremendous one in high school before switching to receiver at UCLA. At 6-2, 230, he's the perfect size, has nice speed, and showed he's got terrific range on special teams during his rookie season. The coaches have talked about it in brainstorms, but don't look for it this spring.

His versatility makes him more effective on offense right now, as shown last season by his one rushing touchdown and one receiving TD, which came off a shovel pass. Think of him as a big Randle El, a gadget waiting to happen. You want El? Here's a bigger version as a runner, receiver, blocker, although not the passer.

The problem at safety is they need a stud right now, either via the draft or free agency. You have to feel Perry would be a bit of a project as a safety and they simply don't have the time to grow a solution at that spot or waste his playing time teaching him.

Plus, now they don't know if they're going to have Henry as the No. 3 receiver and there's enough uncertainty about Kelley Washington as a restricted free agent that Perry and Kevin Walter have to be penciled in as the No. 3s.

(The Bengals would appear now inclined to keep Washington, but what if a team seeking a big, experienced receiver that costs them only a third-rounder instead of drafting one crafts a contract for Washington that the Bengals don't want to match?)

What makes Perry an enticing safety are the same things that make him a productive receiver: Speed, smarts, hands. You're paying Carson Palmer $118 million, so you have to make sure he's surrounded by enough weapons at all times.

Perry may not have Henry's speed, but he's fast enough to be a factor in the passing game and it looks like they need him there more than anywhere.

You always have to keep an eye on Ray Lewis given Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' close relationship with him and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, the perfect trading partner. But the Bengals dislike doing business with and against people in their division.

(So not so fast on Steelers safety Chris Hope just yet.)

Ray Lewis is also is mentor to Chad Johnson and would be a perfect fit for a locker room that is apparently still immature and needs players to police themselves at times.

That said, it just doesn't seem to be a football and economic fit right now. Lewis turns 31 in May and is going to command a franchise player's salary, a tough nut for a club that already has a franchise quarterback deal in place and has all five staring offensive linemen slated for free agency after this season.

The stories on Lewis say no one is going to offer the Ravens more than a second-round pick for him. As close as the Lewises are, Marvin has pinned this club's revival on youth and draft picks and he's got a 22-year-old emerging Pro Bowler in the middle in Odell Thurman who probably can't play any other spot in a 4-3.

The word is that Ray asked the Ravens to trade him before the 2005 season. If the Bengals didn't do it then when they didn't have a middle backer and had more salary cap room, would they do it now?

Maybe it could happen, but a lot of things would have to happen first and they won't happen overnight. But one thing is for sure. We haven't heard the end of it.

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