Hobson's Choice: No 'El' in Bengals' alphabet

With the problems involving Chris Henry, do you think there is any chance that the Bengals could go after Antwaan Randel El? He could solve the punt return problem as well as a third wide receiver.
Chad, Galloway, Ohio CHAD:
They may be better off signing "El," as the backup quarterback if Jon Kitna leaves. Given that they've already got millions invested in their two top wide receivers and they need to spend on defense, the short answer is, "None."

Figure the Bengals have about $4 million to spend in free agency if the published figures culled from a variety of sources are accurate. After spending all their cap money in '05, the Bengals are reportedly about $10 million under the '06 salary cap. But about $6 million of it is going to be taken up by roughly $3.5 million in draft picks and nearly $3 million in one-year offers of $720,000 each to restricted free agents Kelley Washington, Jeremi Johnson, Kevin Walter and Scott Kooistra.

The $4 million could get them one to two starters on defense, and isn't that where the money should go? Plus, they no doubt want to squeeze in an extension or two to an offensive lineman. You just can't pay your No. 3 receiver/punt returner what Randle El no doubt wants.

If they don't have Henry, they already have a guy in Washington who has played a lot as a third receiver. Kevin Walter has done it some and Tab Perry hardly at all, but they are high on Perry and he has performed well as a special teamer. He also scored two touchdowns as a rookie on what amounted to runs out of the backfield, showing off his good speed and size.

But Perry and Washington just don't give them the vertical threat Henry does, and they'll have to live with it for the time being.

Randle El is a nice pipe dream, but there just doesn't seem to be a fit for a team that must upgrade its defense above anything else in free agency.

Certainly they also have to upgrade in punt return after Keiwan Ratliff's sophomore slump. But the next guy up, Perry, is probably out because he'll have to play at receiver as well as return kicks until the Henry thing is resolved.

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