Hobson's Choice: Still looking for QBs

With the acquisition of Doug Johnson what will happen with (Jon) Kitna? Chris, Washington, D.C. CHRIS:

That depends on Kitna. They still have one more spot for a quarterback so they can take four to training camp (Carson Palmer, Craig Krenzel, Johnson) and I would imagine that's the guy they envision starting out the season if Palmer can't. Johnson is going to get his shot here and they think he's a competent, experienced guy that can compete for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. But there will be others available that are probably going to be more attractive if the first month of the season is, say, at Tampa Bay, home against New England, at Indy, home against Carolina.

And, that guy still be could Kitna. But the Bengals won't wait for him. He declined (politely as always) to discuss his situation last week, but he has told the club he wants to test the free-agency market.

The Bengals have told him, fine, but they're going to look, too, and they may not be on the same schedule. If the Bengals can find a guy who has been productive and doesn't mind being a backup, they'll sign him as soon as possible. Or maybe the second day of the draft opens up something.

Of course, there's not exactly a long list of veterans. The toughest thing for the Bengals is going to be finding a solid player who doesn't mind sitting behind a perennial Pro Bowler. Any guy who has had success is going to think he can play and doesn't want to sit. Hello, Kitna.

Is a kid like Josh McCown going to come here to sit? Or even a Tim Rattay, although the word is the Bucs are going to keep him? Now, maybe you could offer a young guy like that a one-year deal and he can use it as an audition, but Palmer could end up not missing a snap.

But you figure the Bengals aren't going to rush the $118 million man, and that brings us to Kitna. His best chance to play this year is here. No coaches in the NFL respect him more or value him more than offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. Bratkowski, who broke Kitna in while both were in Seattle, had enough confidence in him to throw 40 passes in a playoff game. You've got to believe it's going to be hard for him to find that kind of support elsewhere.

No question. Kitna has struggled when he's been Palmer's backup the past two seasons. But he's a different player when he gets the majority of reps every day. All you have to do is look at how he played in '02 when he was part of a disastrous training camp QB derby and then in '03 when he got all the snaps from Day One.

If Kitna goes some place else as the guy, how soon are people going to be clamoring for a change? Here, he could play the first two, three, four games, or whatever it is, unchallenged.

Of course, no one knows how healthy Palmer is going to be at camp. Maybe the backup gets zero work, although head coach Marvin Lewis has said they have approach it like he won't be ready.

One scenario is they start Palmer as the No. 3 quarterback and let him ease back into it. That would give the No. 2 the bulk of the No. 1 work until Palmer is healthy enough to move up. But for how long? And who's to say that Johnson won't beat some people out?

A lot of people think Kitna's play in the last two games has hurt his marketability, and the Bengals definitely need him to play better than he has the last two years. But that should come with the camp reps.

Kitna in Cincinnati seems to be the best option for both. They wouldn't have to rush Palmer that first month because they would have a guy who knows the system as well as anyone on the planet. At 34 (on Sept. 21), Kitna wouldn't have to go to a new city and learn a new system and not have to wonder when a head coach worried about his job is going to pull him.

But I don't blame Kitna for thinking he's better than most of the guys who have starting jobs. That's why the guy is such a great competitor and anyone in his right mind hopes it works out for him.

It's just that sometimes the FieldTurf isn't always greener.

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