Hobson's Choice: Let's be honest

Q: I know you'll never respond to this question on the Bengals page, but I have to ask it anyway. Why do you mislead us in terms of how much money the team has under the salary cap? I'm a member of a large Bengal bulletin board community where we have some very knowledgeable fans. We often discuss our cap situation and always wonder why you seem to undercut what the team really has. Yes, we know we have to pay our draft picks. Yes, we know we have our own players to re-sign. Yes, we know we need to have room left for contingency situations. Yet, when we do the math, we see a team that has enough cap room to comfortably go after some top notch free agents. You make it sound like we are in the poor house while in actuality the Bengals are pretty healthy when compared to other teams. Yes, we realize the Bengals are conservative in their approach to deals and contracts, but the bottom line is that we do have the cap space to sign top-name free agents if the Bengals really wanted to. Instead of selling us a bill of goods about being strapped against the cap, just level with us and say the organization's philosophy is not to go out and spend on top tier free agents. At least if you were honest, we could better appreciate the direction the team is headed.
--Ralph, Panama City, FL RALPH:

I think you've got me confused with the people that make the decisions around here. We all know the math, but not everybody agrees what to do with the numbers. Please don't confuse your opinion with my integrity.

Frankly, I'm amazed. I think that's the one thing you have to try hard to do when covering the cap is not mislead. I think I've given an accurate picture of how the Bengals read the cap and that's what I want to know. How do they read it? How do the people making the decisions read it? Yeah, I know what I would do. I know what you would do, but we're not making the call. I'm trying to cover the people who do.

It happens every new cap year. Some huge number rolls out in January about how far they are under the cap, and you don't think that's misleading? Then, when the rookie pools come out and the tenders come out, it gets adjusted down to the number with which this team deals. I'm not undercutting what the team has. That's what the team thinks it has.

Yeah, I know a lot of teams don't budget their rookies until they sign. But the Bengals don't do that. So that's the real number because that's how they see it. Is that dishonest because you don't like the number and think they should do something else?

I don't know how many times I've written about how this team doesn't like to hand out big bonuses because they don't like to push money into future years. About how they like to develop their own and about how they like to sign their own instead of signing big name free agents. I mean, you've got to be kidding me. That's all I've written about the last month. Hell, the last 10 years.

Dishonest? I think the honest thing is to admit that people simply don't like how they do it and they have to get mad at someone and they all think they have a better way and maybe they do.

It's always the biggest debate in Bengaldom. Could a Sam Adams or a Marlon McCree put this team over the edge or some other veteran free agent?

Personally, I think yes. Personally, I think the best way to counter Carson Palmer's injury is to get better on defense in a hurry instead of spending a bucketful on a backup quarterback that won't make a whole lot of difference between an 0-4 or 1-3 start if he has to put up 30 every Sunday.

But, they can make a pretty good argument against it when they show that the big-time free agents succeed about half the time, especially the older guys, and many times all you get out of it is dead money. I mean, I look at the Super Bowl teams, Pittsburgh and Seattle, and they pretty much played with kids and guys they re-signed, so I don't think the Bengals are on Mars on this.

And they've done a good job re-signing guys and juggling the cap in putting together a core that's here through '08 and '09. People cried about the $2.2M they saved on cutting Warrick. But no one wept when they gave it to Palmer as part of his extension and beat the CBA mess by a few months. They've been at the cap or over it since they moved into the stadium, so it's not like they're putting cap money in a Swiss bank account.

It's a fair debate. Good fodder.

But mislead? I think it's a downright lie to suggest I'm selling a bill of goods when all I'm doing is trying to show the goods. Or bads.

Yes, you know the Bengals are conservative. Yes, you know they're cautious. I know. It's what I report. You wish they weren't.

But that doesn't make me a liar.

(Today's report is the Bengals have an extra $7.5 million to spend in free agency. Honest.)

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