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Hobson's Choice: Young QB depth not relative

Q: With Anthony Wright now going to the Giants and with only Johnson as a backup do you think the Bengals will take a serious look at Jordan Palmer in the 5th round (if he goes there as most predict)? I think it would be a great fit learning the pro game from his brother and we have a very good QB coach also. He could well be another Schaub in a couple of years and could bring a good return on that 5th round pick. What are your thoughts?
--Brian L., Cincinnati, OH

BRIAN: After spending time with Jordan at the Senior Bowl and talking to Carson about it, I just don't see it happening for a number of reasons starting with the kids don't want it and it would make things awkward for coaches and management.

These are two great kids, no question about it. But what if the Bengals ended up cutting Jordan, or had a contract snafu with Carson, or what if a coach had an issue with one of them?

I'm not saying any of that would happen, but why even make it a possibility?

Plus, here's how Carson weighed in on it back in January:

"Selfishly I would love to be around him. But I want to be the quarterback of this team for a long time and I want the same thing for him. I want him to be the quarterback of the future for some franchise. I know that's what he wants and that's what I want for him."

So don't count on it.

But the Bengals do really need to develop a young quarterback and the fifth, sixth, seventh round is about right.

Get a player with upside that you know you're going to have for at least three years who is going to be greased in your system instead of guys who are probably on the downside and are moving on you year to year.

Of course, that always conjures up the Great Debate. If you're a playoff contender, how can your No. 2 QB be a Bruce Gradkowski? But then again, how do you find out if he's a young Jon Kitna?

Q: Do you see the Bengals trading Justin Smith for extra draft picks? If so what do you think they could get for him from another team?
--Doug H., Fort Mitchell, KY

DOUG: It doesn't look like the Bengals are trying to trade one of their best defensive players in a year they think they can win the division and it doesn't look like anybody is calling with extra picks. The clamor is to upgrade the defense. Why trade its most productive player?

I'm not sure you could get extra picks for Smith, but I also don't think you ought to trade him straight up for a second-rounder, third-rounder or a bottom half first-rounder.

It's chic to put Smith on the block these days, but let's compare him to what you MAY get in the first round.

Look at the four Marvin first-rounders: A Pro Bowler in Carson Palmer, a potential solid starter in Johnathan Joseph, and two question marks in Chris Perry and David Pollack. They always say your first-rounders pan out about 50 percent of the time and they have.

With Smith, you know what you're getting. An above average player you can write in for 7.5 sacks and 90 tackles that plays 95 percent of the snaps. You know that's what you're going to get, which is a lot more than you know what you're going to get with whatever you get in the first round.

I don't think they'd want to give away a guy like that on Draft Day. Maybe a top 15 pick, but I doubt that's going to happen, and it would seem to fly in the face of why they tagged him in the first place.

They feel like 2007 can be a big year and if they can't work out a long-term deal for Smith, they can at least have him this year. They decided their big free-agents signings this year on defense are Smith and Robert Geathers ($13 million in cap count) so a trade doesn't appear likely.

*Q: Assuming that he can pass a physical, why wouldn't the Bengals go after Al Wilson, a four-time Pro Bowler at weak side linebacker and a linebacker with speed?

And before you tell me all about the cap, says that as of last Wednesday the Bengals had $7.4 million in cap space.

Since the Bengals do not have a third-round pick this year, that means that their rookie pool probably won't be more than $4 million -- easy. That leaves $3.4 million in cap space and even considering some for injuries, $2.5 million in space gets a lot of ballplayer.

It is time to see if the Bengals really want to win as this would represent their biggest free agent signing ever.
--Harold, Chicago, IL*

HAROLD: If it's one thing they've shown this offseason it's an aversion to 30ish linebackers who have been hurt and make good money, i.e. Brian Simmons and Takeo Spikes. I'm already on board saying it was wrong to cut Simmons and that Spikes would have been a great fit, so I'll just stay mum on Wilson because I don't think they're listening to me.

Figure the seven draft picks are in the $3.5M ballpark without the third-rounder. Now take the $3 million pad they use for injuries and incentives and you're down to $900,000, which is a veteran backup quarterback.

Yeah, if it was $2.5 million, you could get a couple of players, not just one. They dropped about $4-5M in last year's cap on a three-time Pro Bowler in Sam Adams and a Super Bowl MVP in Dexter Jackson in free agency and ended up being 30th on defense. That's another reason the money isn't being spent, not just because their view of the cap is that it's tight.

Given that they've spent to the cap or over it pretty much every year they've been in Paul Brown Stadium, I think you can assume they want to win. If you want to debate how they're going about it, please do and we have.

But when you spend the money they've spent to keep their best players, yeah, I think you can conclude they really want to win.

If the deals to keep Palmer, the two Johnsons, and the two tackles didn't show that, I'm not sure what would.

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