Hobson's Choice: Please, no more youth movements

Q: Why do we keep re-signing all of the "talent" on the Bengals squad? I do not understand why there is such a push to keep all the pieces to a team that finished a whopping 8-8. Why don't we dump people like Justin Smith, who has never had a breakout season, and take chances on younger players?

We would have been better served to let Smith go on his way, as well as many other players, and look to reload via the draft and free agency.
**--Seth T., Altoona, PA

SETH:** Man, times change. For years people have been after this team to make moves for the fleeting now instead of the safe later. The Smith tag says clearly they want to win in '07, right?

People keep saying dump Smith and sign a dominant defender. Show me one that's not franchised. Hey, show me one not Dwight Freeney that's franchised. If you woke up and saw a headline that said, "Bengals sign combined 18 sacks," you'd feel pretty good, wouldn't you? They have. Robert Geathers and Justin Smith are the rare defensive ends with any kind of numbers at all on this market.

The idea of lopping Smith and using his $8 million to pursue somebody else is a great concept if you could reload in free agency like you could 10 years ago. Nowadays free agency is looking like the slim picking days of Plan B in the early '90s.

Take away the players that aren't franchised and you're left with guys like Nick Harper, Chris Kelsay, and Donnie Edwards. Nice players, but they're not going to turn around any franchises any time soon and they better with the money they'll get thanks to a depressed market. And how much better are they than what the Bengals have? If at all?

Sure, they don't have to pay Smith the $8.6 million. But who is going to replace him and who are they going to give the money to? Look at his sacks and tackles (seven and 65 per year) and they don't grow on trees. There used to be a day they wouldn't bat an eye in giving a young, inexperienced draft pick like Frostee Rucker the job and let a proven, productive veteran like Smith go and remain on that perpetual treadmill of "building for the future." Hell, I take franchising Smith as a message that they think they can win it all in '07.

Yeah, they've got problems. But in this league, 8-8 means you're close enough. Why rip it up and rebuild when everyone you talk to says the Bengals have one of the most talented teams in the league?

I don't think you can have much of a gripe with the guys they've decided to keep. I mean, Carson Palmer, Willie Anderson, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Levi Jones, Bobbie Williams ... ? Who don't you keep? Don't gripe about keeping the offensive line. Remember how the 15-year slide into oblivion began: Left guard Max Montoya's departure in Plan B free agency.


Q: With Eric Steinbach pretty much out the door via free agency, might the Bengals be interested in fellow free agent Leonard Davis? As I recall, the Bengals were very high on him and disappointed when the Cardinals picked him in the 2001 draft before they could.
**--Brian C., Arlington, VA

BRIAN:** Great memory, but somehow in my mind that is now the Richard Seymour Draft, when the Patriots Pro Bowl defensive tackle went No. 6 behind Davis and Justin Smith.

The Bengals already have second-year second-rounder Andrew Whitworth to replace Steinbach, a second-rounder himself that has reached alternate Pro Bowl status.

That was the plan when they opted to take Whitworth in the last draft, choosing him ahead of such guys as return sensation Devin Hester. They figured they couldn't extend tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson and Steinbach at the same time and Whitworth gave them flexibility.

After the '06 carnage on the offensive line, it turned out to be a hell of a pick. Whitworth is huge, a beachside condo with legs, and he's more athletic than you think. He's not going to pull like Steinbach, but he makes them more physical at the point of attack.

Davis is a big guy, too. One of the big stories out of the '01 combine was his head that roughly had the diameter of a celestial body. He's been a decent player at guard and tackle, but not the dominant guy Arizona wished and that's why they've chosen not to franchise him or re-sign him.


Q: What are the chances of us signing Daniel Graham? This guy would be a great fit and could be the missing piece to a "consistent" offense.
**--Henrik P., Old Orchard Beach, ME

HENRIK:** How can you not love Pats tight end Daniel Graham, the ultimate team player on the ultimate team? But is he the game-breaker for which all Bengaldom lusts at that position? How much are you willing to pay a role player?

Oh, the guy is good. He can block and catch, but he's going to want a lot of beans. Here's a guy that has just three catches of 40 yards or longer in his five-year career and 23 of his 120 grabs have been for 20 or longer with an average catch of 11.6. Good numbers but $4-5 million for a guy who hasn't really been a down-the-field tight end?

With Smith tagged, it's moot because they can't afford a big-money guy and if they suddenly can, shouldn't they pour the cash into defense?

No question they ought to inquire about Graham because he's versatile and is the kind of blocker they need in their running game at that position. But I'm not sure he's an offensive savior. And do they need one, or do they need to re-sign the soul of their running game, Reggie Kelly and concentrate on putting big money into defense?

Carson Palmer is already on record as saying he wants and needs Kelly back. Which should speak volumes.

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