Hobson's Choice: Webster keeps clawing

Hi Geoff,

Given the news about Nate Webster's latest setback, I have a question concerning injury settlements. In today's article (5:50 AM? Wow), you said that injury settlements cannot be reached on last year injuries. What would the benefit be if they could do an injury settlement? How does it impact the salary cap? Since they can't go with the injury settlement route, what options do they have with Nate then? What are the impacts of letting him go, and possibly resigning him later? If I were Coach Lewis, I wouldn't feel comfortable not knowing about the middle linebacker position until the regular season opener. Thanks for all the off-season updates.

Larri Mount Laurel, NJ LARRI:
Hey, you have to start the day at some point, and I'm starting to get to the age that I'm just happy to wake up at any hour. The Bengals are clearly making sure they've got a healthy Mike backer to start Opening Day, but I wouldn't put it past Webster to be a contributor by the time '05 is done. Since there is no injury settlement option because he got hurt last season and not this one, here are some choices they have regarding Webster:

Keep him and pay his $1.5 million salary if he's on the Opening Day roster.

So this is obviously a decision driven more by football than economics because of the money involved. It's a decision that looks like it has to be based on what happens in the draft, who is available in free agency, and his health.

The problem for the Bengals, and Webster acknowledged it Monday, is you just simply don't know when he can come back from this second tear, albeit it a partial one, in the patella tendon of his kneecap.

This is like sitting around your kitchen table with the insurance agent. The Bengals have to decide on what kind of policy they want on him.

Whole life with a big-time guy like Jamie Sharper? A short term policy with a veteran free agent minimum salary guy? The roll-the-dice-I-ll-call-another-compay-dear and go with somebody in the draft or another try with Caleb Miller in the middle?

Or, go the fixed plan and keep Landon Johnson in the middle and play another year with Kevin Hardy on the left side?

Say this for Webster. He's a dogged, tough guy who is stalking around the locker room like he'll be ready in some form by Opening Day. Sign me up for the No. 52 Fan Club. They signed him because of his speed and take-no-prisoners mentality that this defense still needs, and it was all looking up when he had a big hand in stoning the Dolphins in the Sunday night win with 10 tackles the week before he got hurt.

Yes, the Bengals need insurance. But something says don't count out one of the rocks.

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