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Hobson's Choice: New draft rule

Q: A little early, but where do you think we are going with the WR situation for next year? Looks like Washington may not be back. Does the club still feel good about Chatman? How is Tab Perry coming along after his hip injury?

Although he is certainly a major talent and has been exceptional for short stretches, are the Bengals tiring of Chris Henry's lack of focus on and off the field? What do you think the chances are that he will be traded in the offseason?
**--Aaron C., Lexington, Ky.

AARON: ** Here's my draft rule: As long as Carson Palmer is the quarterback, they must take a wide receiver in the first round every three years and the gong is ringing.

I just don't see them giving up on Henry, but the scary thing is he's one more screwup from giving himself up and is the risk worth two big drops a game? Yet he's so darn good, I see them sticking with him unless there's a guy they just can't resist. Me? They're four years overdue, so I take the best wideout but I doubt they'll do that.

Wave goodbye to The Squirrel. Washington will come out of the winter and free agency with a lot of nuts. Perry said last month that he's beginning to run on a treadmill and the fear that he's got a Bo Jackson hip is gone.

No one knows what they have in Chatman, or how he'll bounce back from the groin injury. But they seem to like the pair from LSU, Bennie Brazell and Skyler Green.

So next year the six could look like Chad, Housh, Henry, Perry, Green, Brazell. With Perry and Green you get your kick and punt returners.

You're right. A little early.

Q: What is your thought about Rich Braham becoming an assistant coach on this team? He has respect and could pass on a lot to this line, offense and team.
**--Roger W., Goshen, Ohio

ROGER:** No question. Obviously he can scheme because of the vast number of defenses he's seen over the years, and he'd have the immediate respect factor. But it doesn't look to be in the (scout team) cards.

At least not right away. Certainly going off what Braham said at his news conference Wednesday, it appears he wants to take some time and enjoy his young family. The players have the best hours in the NFL, followed by the head coach, followed by the assistants. A distant last.

Now, he could change his mind after he misses it a year or two, but it seems to me that he's more the Pop Warner, middle school maybe even high school type. But I think it's up to him because he'd be a natural.

Q: Being in the situation that we are in really (stinks), but people have to realize with all the injuries that we have had throughout the year, plus having the hardest schedule in the NFL, we have done a pretty good job.

I still have hope that we can get into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl in Miami this year. So I hope everyone keeps hope alive and prays.

But my question is for next year. What are the chances of us picking up Adalius Thomas and Nate Clements in free agency? I know that Adalius is a Marvin Lewis guy so that's a good chance, right? And everyone knows that Tory is getting too old and Deltha isn't putting up numbers and playing the way we expect him, so Nate would be a great pickup.

What are your thoughts on those two free agents? Also I want to keep Kevin, the Matrix, but being the fact that on draft day the best thing to do is pick up the best player available, there is a cornerback from CAL (I believe his last name is Hughes). Is there any word from the scouts of who they're looking at?
**--Omnie R., Aurora, IL

OMNIE:** You probably couldn't get both free agents because they're looking at being among the top five richest. But let's dream about Thomas for a second.

It would be great if Lewis could sweet talk him and, after all, he and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome sifted Thomas out of the sixth round out of Southern Mississippi in 2000.

Would that mean the Bengals would have to go to a 3-4 defense? You've got to figure Thomas is such a good athlete that he could play anywhere you want. Heck, he splits out with Chad Johnson on some snaps. He's that true defensive playmaker the Bengals haven't had since, well, have they ever had one?

San Fran has a ton of money next year under the cap and the word is they are going to go hard after ends and outside backers. Remember, that's the team that broke the Bengals' heart when they chose outside backer Manny Lawson just ahead of them in the first round of last year's draft.

But think about the 3-4 defense for a minute. The one place it really helps is special teams, a la Adalius. You've got a lot linebackers that have some size to them.

And if the Bengals are going to always be picking somewhere between 19-32, it would seem their best shot at getting a high-impact pass rusher would be some kind of hybrid 3-4ish guy.

Then again, they may think they're pretty good in a 4-3 with Robert Geathers, Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker on the edge. But Fanene and Rucker have a long way to go to give what Justin Smith looks ready to take in free agency.

The scouts aren't supposed to talk to the media, but it doesn't take mental telepathy, right? Find the clone of last year's first-round pick, Johnathan Joseph, the South Carolina corner, and let's go.

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