Hobson's Choice: Shooting for 11-on-11

Q: With training camp coming up in a couple of weeks, how close are the Bengals to signing the rest of their draft class? Will all of them be in camp when it starts? What obstacles might there be with the remaining unsigned players?--*Brad R., Dayton, OH

BRAD:The best guess here is 10 of the 11 picks are going to be in by that first weekend and hopefully No. 1 pick Andre Smith is with them or right behind them. But who's kidding who? Signing a top 10 pick in a bad economy compounded by an uncertain labor situation isn't a day at the beach. Or maybe even a week.

I'm not saying it can't get done on time and I think both sides will try but I also haven't talked to anyone who's optimistic about it getting done before next Friday. Of course, no one who counts is talking, at least publicly, so who knows?  But you could say that about any of the eight unsigned top 10 picks. Of the Bengals unsigned picks, the second-rounder and two third-rounders figure to get done pretty timely.

One obstacle for a quick Smith signing at No. 6 are the two first-round deals at No. 1 and No.5. They are both quarterback contracts and are mega percent more than last year's deals at the same spots. Tied into that is the whopping guaranteed money, which is at $28.5 million for Mark Sanchez in the spot ahead of Smith.

Smith isn't a quarterback and the fact he's changing positions and has yet to play an NFL snap doesn't make him a guaranteed Pro Bowler, which is the sticker price.

So the sides have to compromise. Smith has to realize he can't get quarterback money. But the Bengals have to realize he's going to get big money. The resolution may be in the milestones he has to reach for that money.


Q: I just read that NFL Network says the Bengals have interest in Vick (which is compounded by Lance McAlister's interest). Why? Do we really need a QB with a low completion percentage and with obvious character flaws? Will his bad passing counteract Chad's drops? Obviously, the hope is Carson never leaves the field and Vick could run a wildcat, but it still seems like an unnecessary risk.*
--Scott C., Cincinnati, OH

SCOTT: From what I understand the Bengals have not talked to Vick or any of his representatives and have no plans to and I would imagine it is for a variety of the reasons you mention.

Hard Knocks is going to be tough enough. Why make it Desperate Housewives? After 8-8, 7-9, and 4-11-1, this season is already going to be 16 weeks splayed under the hot bulbs of a million microscopes.

Plus, they'd have to cut one of the two backup quarterbacks that have already spent a spring with the playbook and force feed him. Granted, Vick wouldn't have to know much to do his thing but it is a factor. But, yes, you're right. Just too much for a team that has already been through too much.


Q: With the Bengals being filmed on Hard Knocks, has the intensity of summer conditioning changed? If so, do you predict this will have an impact on the playing field?*
--Paul M., San Diego, CA

PAUL: As we referenced on the final day of minicamp, the players applauded the efforts of strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver to inject more intensity into the offseason workouts that began at the end of March. So the intensity has been already there without the cameras.

But everyone knows cameras have an impact. Whether it's on the field, in the film room, or in the dinner line, people just act differently when the cameras are on. That's why, in my mind, it's a huge gamble. And with all the injuries this team has dealt with in the last two years, how intense do you want the practices?


Q: Do you think the Bengals will implement a "wildcat" formation this year? I can't wait for the season, playoffs baby!*
--Tom C., Hilliard, Ohio

TOM: By the way, brilliant screen name.

I don't think it's going to be a staple, but I would think we see it more of it than we did last year when they merely tinkered with it at the end of the season with wide receiver Andre Caldwell at the QB spot. I mean, how many times do you want the ball out of No. 9's hands?

But, yeah, I think Caldwell is the kind of guy that can do it maybe a couple of times a game for a change of pace. He's a high school quarterback who passed and rushed for more than 2,200 yards in football-rich Florida and played for Mr. Spread himself (Urban Meyer) at the University of Florida. And he showed some nifty moves in the final game of the season running out of various positions.

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