Hobson's Choice: Tight call

Q: With the signing of Utecht, do you think this paves the way for the Bengals using their third-round pick to trade up instead of on a tight end? I think a lot of people would like to know if there is any way to get rid of the Chad Johnson cap hit? If it helps him get out of Cincinnati I think Chad would be willing to do whatever it takes. The Oakland Raiders might want to trade us that number four pick since they have spent a lot of money this offseason, especially if the DeAngelo Hall trade goes through.
--Eddie, Cincinnati, OH

EDDIE: There are only two players the Bengals should trade up to get in the first round: Defensive tackles Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis, and they shouldn't give up more than a third-rounder to get one of them.

That's because they should have two third-rounders with the extra one coming as compensation for losing left guard Eric Steinbach to free agency. But they can't use the compensatory pick that is going to come at the end of the third round for a trade. They can only use their own draft picks.

That's the beauty of the Utecht signing if they get him. Since he came out of college as an undrafted free agent, they don't have to give up a draft pick to get him. And, they don't have to spend a pick to get a tight end.

But if they get to the third or fourth round and have guys like Missouri's Martin Rucker or Cal's Craig Stevens graded higher than anyone else, they could still draft a tight end.

Note: Don't expect it. They've only traded up once in the first round in 40 drafts.

No, Chad's cap hit is the cap hit. Throw on top of that they'd lose him and have to cut guys to fit the hit, and it would be the pro sports' version of playing Russian Roulette.

A trade would come across as an $8 million cap charge and by the time you replaced him on the roster that number is pretty much going to stick. You could spread out the cap charge over this year and next if you traded him after June 1, but then you wouldn't get any draft picks for this season.

Add into the mix that the depth behind him and T.J. Houshmandzadeh is suspect at best, and a trade is akin to banging your head against a wall.

According to Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk.com Friday, the Raiders have about $4.6 million of cap room. Johnson would take up much of it, and the Raiders still have to sign their draft picks, which are probably going to be between $4-5 million by themselves.

Q: Everyone mentions the Bengals taking either Sedrick Ellis or Glenn Dorsey if they are there at 9. What about Trevor Laws from Notre Dame? He is a big player for the middle of the defense. What are your thoughts?
--Matthew, Cincinnati, OH

MATTHEW: The Bengals were at Notre Dame's Pro Day this week but then, they've been at everybody's Pro Day. Agreed, Laws is a good player. But maybe at No. 9 in the third round.

Now, Laws could be gone before that. Pro Football Weekly has him rated as the fifth-best defensive tackle. So does Scouts Inc., which rates him the 57th best player on the board.

He's not known as a pass rusher and at just under 6-1, 300 pounds, he's not going to be an ocean anchor.

But he's a great competitor and grinder and the Bengals love the two kids they got from Notre Dame in the seventh round last year, strong safety Chinedum Ndukwe and Dan Santucci, a guard that has been switched to center.

Laws is far from a seventh-rounder. But just where he fits early in the draft seems to depend on taste. And the Bengals don't have the ninth pick in the third round. They swing back to No. 14 after going nine in the first round and 15th in the second. But if he goes as high as 57, they'd have to take him with that second-round pick in the high 40s.

Q: "And there is his style. McFadden does most of his damage on the perimeter and a Bengals running back does work between the tackles." That is the most ridiculous thing you have ever written. Is that an assumption?
--Stephen K., West Palm Beach, Fla.

STEPHEN: Who is making the assumption? You or me? I guess you assume I'm making this stuff up.

In talking to some scouts and people at the combine and on the horn who cover the draft every day, their view is that McFadden is a great outside runner with tremendous hands. But as far as running inside stuff—power plays, leads—that may not be what he does best.

And when the Bengals running game is in sync and operating behind the big offensive line, they seem at their most productive running inside the tackles.

Look, if there is a guy who is the best player on the board and you've taken character into account, you take him. Even if he plays in a flag football league. You teach him.

Hopefully they learned that in the Steven Jackson Year. He was the consensus top back in the draft, but the Bengals thought Chris Perry fit their style better, and he might have if he didn't get hurt.

But the 230-pound Jackson goes into the 2008 season with nine career runs of 40 yards or longer, averages 4.4 yards per carry, and has more than 1,500 career yards receiving.

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