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Hobson's Choice: Wheel and deal

Q: This is what I feel we should do this offseason. Let's trade a fourth-round pick for Shaun Rogers. He still has three years left on his deal averaging about $4 million per year. In free agency we should re-sign (Madieu) Williams and (Stacy) Andrews. I don't think either will be too expensive. As far as other free agents, I would go out and get Lance Briggs (we should be able to afford him with Justin Smith off the books) and, if we cut a couple of cap casualties, Ben Troupe, a big, fast and young tight end. When it comes to the draft, this gives us the ability to take the best player available. Maybe C. Long, McFadden, or Dorsey fall. Or we could trade down a couple of slots and still pick up Kenny Phillips, or Keith Rivers. But what do I know? I am just a 19-year-old Bengals fan tired of seeing this talented team go to waste. So Geoff, I just wanted to hear your thoughts.
--Jordan, Cincinnati

JORDAN: When you're 19, you know plenty because that means you were probably born in 1988, the last year the Bengals went you know where. So that means all of Bengaldom is 19 years old.

With the batch of compensatory draft choices they figure to receive, I like the idea of using some of their 11-12 picks to move up in the rounds and get some of the guys that have escaped them by a few picks the past few seasons.

In 2006 they just missed North Carolina State defensive end Manny Lawson by two picks in the first round and Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano by two picks in the second round. Although, the way things have turned out so far for Fasano in Dallas and left guard Andrew Whitworth (No. 55) in Cincy, that has broken well for the Bengals.

But the Bengals had another second-round heartbreak this past year when three pretty good linebackers went ahead of them at 46 (Michigan's LaMarr Woodley), 47 (Michigan's David Harris) and 48 (Hampton's Justin Durant) before taking Auburn running back Kenny Irons at No. 49.

To be fair, here, the Bengals didn't know Roger Goodell wouldn't pull the trigger on middle linebacker Odell Thurman, middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks would pull (actually rip) his groin and that Irons would pull a Ki-Jana Carter.

But the extra picks can be of use.

And, Rogers is interesting.

One of the five big questions is how much free-agent money are the Bengals going to dump into their defense after former defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan pointed out they simply don't have the same high-priced talent on defense that they have on offense.

By the time you re-sign Andrews, deal with insurance for the bell cow running back situation in case Rudi Johnson isn't 100 percent, and grapple with a receiving tight end (all things they need at some point, right?), they have to make sure they don't short the defense.

(Yes, I've come around on the tight end thing. You need a blocker as good as Reggie Kelly in this division to protect the quarterback. But life also must be made easier over the middle for Carson Palmer, so keep Kelly and Dan Coats but also keep a pass-catcher.)

Andrews won't be cheap, but after developing him from a college track star with 70 football snaps to a pro player with a track record, it will be worth every penny. As for Williams, how much do you drop with Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe in the wings at safety?

Word out of Detroit is that Rogers, a two-time Pro Bowler, has battled attitude, health and weight problems, as well as the underachieving tag.

Last thing this defense needs. Sounds like what may be a radioactive guy to Mike Zimmer. But, at 29 on March 12, Rogers is four years younger than Sam Adams when the Bengals signed him. And probably lighter.

OK, think about him. But don't think about Briggs.

How much money are you going to spend on a guy who has 5.5 sacks and six interceptions in 76 career games? He's a final piece-of-the-puzzle guy, not a fit for a defense that has to retool. Spend the dough on a down lineman and get the linebacker in the draft.

One thing on the draft.

You can't just think defense at No. 9. If you don't trade up for a Long or Dorsey and can't trade down to get a Rivers, you may have to think offensive tackle.

Q: With the resurgence of the Browns and seven playoff teams on schedule for 2008, will Zimmer's defense be enough to help put the Bengals in the playoffs?
--Derk J., Toledo, OH

DERK: The first and best way to upgrade this defense is to get this offense running the ball like it did two years ago before there can be any discussion of playoffs. Play-action is the only way to get to the playoffs.

Here's the key stat for '08: The Jaguars, Steelers, Giants and Titans are arguably the four most physical teams in the NFL and finished 2-5 in NFL rushing. Zimmer knows he has a shorter honeymoon than Britney Spears.

Yes, the Bengals did a much better job against the run over the last eight games. But in four of those games they played running games ranked 23rd or lower. Although they did beat two of the three (Tennessee and Cleveland) that were in the top 10.

So next year has to be a man-up season and whether the Bengals ditch the one-gap 4-3 for a two-gap 3-4 is anyone's guess, but the first priority has to be what Marvin said the day after the season:

"We need to be a physical football team. If we're not, we're going to struggle week-in and week-out."

But Lewis was also talking about offense, too. The best way to help this defense is to restore the Bengals running game to top 10 status and keep its defense off the field against those steam-rolling offenses.

Marvin has '08 diagnosed right.


Whether he can fill the prescription is why we're in the waiting room.

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