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Hobson's Choice: Ted on the way?

Q: So the latest draft reports have Ted Ginn, Jr. dropping all the way to Jax at 17. Say he drops to 18 and the Bengals have the option to take him. What is the likelihood Marvin will give this Ohio State standout another chance on defense? You can't teach speed and this guy is a speed demon.
**--Ryan, Dublin, OH

A:** No chance. With the Bengals heading into Marvin Lewis' fifth season no better than 28th on defense in three of them, the first two picks can't be tweeners, projections, or offense. No one-year wonders, either. It's got be as solid as you can get.

The Bengals stood by their claims that there was no one out there in free agency that could upgrade their defense. But that doesn't obscure the fact their defense needs to be upgraded and the draft is the last stop.

We're already on the record here saying that any year Carson Palmer is the quarterback and the Bengals draft a wideout in the first year it's a good pick.

OK, any year but this year.

Chris Henry is one screwup from jail, but 10 of the 11 offensive starters are back, linebackers David Pollack and Odell Thurman are huge question marks at best, two starters from the past two seasons have left in Brian Simmons and Kevin Kaesviharn, and the club is close enough that it should be a draft for need instead of the best player.

So logic would say no Ginn.

And as for taking him to play defense, the first-round is no place for projections. This is a club that needs immediate results on defense.

Pollack was a first-round projection in 2005 and while it looked like he was emerging before he got hurt, it took time to move him from end to linebacker.

Frankly, they were probably better off keeping him at end. That's where he made all his plays, anyway, and CFL end Rashad Jeanty took quicker to linebacker.

But Pollack would have been a fine player at end, no question, and still the hub and leader of the defense. The interesting question is if Pollack hadn't been hurt, would they have franchised Justin Smith or just replaced him with Pollack?

Q: In review of the current roster and potential depth chart, LB and CB stand out as an area in need of major improvement.

I still have faith in O'Neal and Joseph is rock solid. After them, though, we have a major dropoff in talent in Ratliff and maybe Brooks. A first round CB stud sure makes sense to me if one is available at No. 18 or through a draft day trade-up.

Now for the LBs. In my mind current starters are Brooks at middle, with Jeanty and Johnson on the outside. Backups of Thurman, Miller and Nicholson. This group has potential but a major lack of experience outside of Johnson. Would love to see an experienced LB come to Cinci via F.A. or a trade and also draft a guy in Round 2.

Other then that, I think the defense looks good and, yes, I have been a Bengals fan since '89 so have seen it all. Let me know what you think.
**--Kevin S., Santa Cruz, CA

KEVIN:** Thurman is a stretch, but point well taken. A first day draft of corner first and safety second may be best because they at least have numbers at backer and figure they've already taken one with Ahmad Brooks.

And don't forget a defensive tackle. You'd have to take one of those, too, before a backer, wouldn't you?

If it's not a stud linebacker, somebody like a Patrick Willis, take another position in the first round that has more of an ability to change a game. You would have to think corner is the pick at No. 18 if they make the determination there's not that major of a dropoff after Michigan's Leon Hall.

People will probably scream if they don't take a linebacker in the first two rounds but, remember, they have already used their third-round pick on Brooks. How many premium choices can you use on one position? The Brooks pick is their fifth first day-backer in the last three drafts.

After the draft, the guess here is they will sign a veteran backer in the mold of a one-year deal they just reached with center Alex Stepanovich.

Q: I agree with your defense of the Bengals' rationale for not taking a TE in the last couple drafts and/or seeking an upgrade at that position in free agency:

A) The three WR threat (TJ, Chad, C. Henry) has been potent.

B) The 3-WR threat combined with a healthy Chris Perry (or Kenny Watson during Perry's frequent absences) is as good as or better than the production of most catching TEs in the league.

C) The stars have not yet aligned for the organization to find a TE of value in free agency or in a recent draft.

Solid enough arguments in my opinion. However, considering that we have two of the best WRs in the NFL (TJ and No. 85), some decent depth in 3rd WR prospects, and Watson signed for one more year, why not consider the benefits of placing Chris Henry and/or Chris Perry on the auction block to get a few extra draft picks, clear cap room, and troll for some help at positions of need?

It just seems like there might be a little too much invested to make up for not having a TE who does it all when it appears that even without Perry and/or Henry the current solution remains pretty well intact (of course, minus the injury and legal drama). Your thoughts?
**--Bryan H., Salt Lake City, UT

BRYAN:** It's a good idea but there would be a couple of reasons to hesitate.

One, it would be extremely difficult to get any equal value for Perry or Henry. Given Henry's shaky status with the NFL and Perry's injury history, no team would be willing to give you what you would be losing: A first-round pick in Perry and an emerging Pro Bowler in Henry with 15 touchdown catches in two seasons.

Plus, they are two tough guys to lose. People can gripe and moan about Perry all they want, but the fact is the one year he was healthy the offense operated at an extremely high rate on third down, Carson Palmer completed 68 percent of his passes, and the Bengals won 11 games. Believe that Perry was a factor.

As for Henry, you could argue if they beat the Broncos and the Steelers to finish 10-6, he's the reason why. He had two TDs vs. the Steelers and should have had two against Denver.

But we hear what you're saying. There's so much talent on offense, there ought to be a way to even it out. And those two guys have the nice low cap number that can be traded. But, their other numbers are so valuable, too.

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