Palmer today, but tomorrow?

3-28-03, 5:45 p.m.

If the NFL Draft were today, the Bengals would more than likely tap USC quarterback Carson Palmer. It's a decision that seems to have divided Bengaldom, where first-round quarterbacks have found obscurity instead of Oz.

Despite concerns about Palmer's ability to absorb the playbook in a timely fashion, the Bengals seem to have placed a lot of checks in the plus column. He's got a live arm, he's got size, his teammates like him, he's a terrific kid by all accounts, and he's got the Boomer Esiason seal of approval and don't think that doesn't mean anything to Bengals President Mike Brown.

And, even though new head coach Marvin Lewis is a defensive guy, he admires Palmer and he has to have enough confidence to think this is the last time his regime is going to have a chance to draft one of the top quarterback prospects.

Plus, as Redskins coach Steve Spurrier says, "The guy who looks like what a NFL quarterback is supposed to look like is Carson Palmer."

But the NFL Draft isn't today. It's in four weeks, so enjoy the buzz as the ebb begins to flow from the readers in this edition of Hobson's Choice:

My question is simple i have heard that the Texans would be willing to trade up for the number one pick. If this is true why don't the Bengals take the offer even if its just a swap of first round picks and an extra third round pick. The reason is the Texans would not take Palmer or even Newman, most likely they would take Rodgers so the Lions could not have them. Then the Lions would pick and the would not take Newman or Palmer because the already overpaid for Dre Bly and have two good QB's so the Bengals would still be left with their top two and have an extra pick during the first day. Thanks. **Ryan Hubbard.

RYAN: The word is the Texans want Terence Newman, the cornerback from Kansas State and they think they can sit at No. 3 and get him. The word is also that the Texans are the only team thinking about trading up to No. 1, and they may have to if they want Newman because he's got a lot of admirers in the Cincinnati draft room.

You've got to figure the Bengals should get more than a third round pick for giving up the overall No. 1 pick. At least a second-round pick, which they gave Carolina in 1995 to go from No. 5 to No. 1 to take Ki-Jana Carter. The Bengals would love to trade the pick, but it takes two to tango and no one wants to hoof a $60 million question mark.**

Geoff; can you tell me why the Bengals are considering drafting Palmer (a guy that had a good half a year and a bad 2 and one half years) vs.Suggs the greatest DE in college football history. Simms will be there in the 2nd round as

will 2 big time sleepers in later rounds Klingsburry and Anes. If Palmer is a bust, he is a drag on your cap for 6 years making no contribution. If Suggs is a bust at least he can be put in the DL rotation. There have been a very high percentage of QB busts from the PAC10. **Roland S., South Point OH

ROLAND: None of the top teams were pursuing Suggs because at 253 pounds, he is such a projection as a defensive end or linebacker (say Reinard Wilson three times fast), and the risk is too great to take in the top five. And Suggs may have run himself even lower with Wednesday's uninspiring workout.

Now, taking Newman or Michigan State speed wide receiver Charlie Rogers at No. 1 is more like it. Poof, an immediate Opening Day starter at a position of need, while Palmer may not start in two to three years. And they would probably take Newman or Rogers if they knew which quarterback would be there in the second round.

The problem is, they don't know how many quarterbacks will go in the first round and there may be no one they like at No. 33 at the top of the second round.**

Is there any possibility of the Bengals adding one more free agent such as Sammy Knight? It would be a great addition and would give the Bengals immediate respect for their secondary. **David, Lockland.

DAVID: Knight, the Saints' safety, would be a good pickup, but the next free-agent moves – be it a guard-center, safety, or fullback _ are going to have to be minimum-salary guys. As it is, they may have to cut some guys to make room to sign their draft picks. So they are probably going to wait for the prices to go down. Plus, they've got a batch of young safeties (Lamont Thompson, Marquand Manuel, Mark Roman, maybe Kevin Kaesviharn) they have to find out about this year.**

Dear Geoff, Chad Johnson was such a pleasant surprise last season emerging as the teams No. 1 receiver. Peter Warrick seemed to find his niche` as well, when he was moved to the slot. The talk in Cincinnati is that the Bengals may select Charlie Rogers of Michigan State with the first overall pick. If this were to happen this would give the Bengals three legitimate wide receivers.

My question is with Chad Johnson becoming a restricted free agent next season I'm sure he's No. 1 on the list of Bengals to be re-signed as well as fellow receiver Ron Dugans, either during the season or in the off-season. So if the Bengals take Rogers, who will have a big contract being the first pick, can the Bengals keep Warrick, Johnson, Dugans, and Rogers? **Drew K. Louisville, KY

DREW: Probably not. You could keep three of them, but the third guy couldn't be as well-heeled as Johnson and Rogers. Even if they don't take Rogers No. 1, they have to seriously look at that spot. Lewis has been pretty adamant about adding another burner at receiver to team with Johnson.**

What is the status of Steve Foley? Will he start this year? And is Terry Witherspoon the starting FB or will we draft a FB? It seems that there are not many "good" FB's left in free agency.

Foley is penciled in as the starting left outside linebacker as he comes off a season-ending dislocated right shoulder in last year's preseason. His status is unclear for next month's minicamps, but he has been saying he'll be back for training camp. No doubt the Bengals will eventually pluck a veteran fullback out of free agency, and look for them to draft one on the second day. Lewis isn't looking for a killer blocker, but an athlete who can competently block as well as catch.

I have been a devout Bengals fan for 20 years. Since their last Super Bowl run in 88/89, they have had a continually bad secondary. Being a defensive minded coach is upgrading this area a top priority of yours this offseason.(please say yes!) **Aaron, Hyde Park.

AARON: That question for Lewis is an easy one. His defenses in Baltimore and Washington have been peopled by first-round cornerbacks, which is why they are taking such a long look at Kansas State's Terence Newman in the draft. You could make an argument that Lewis' signing of the Raiders' Tory James gives them their best corner since the Super Bowl XXIII SWAT Team days of Eric Thomas.

The James signing reflects how Lewis wants to re-shape the secondary with bigger, better cover players. The aggressive philosophy may be even more of a needed change than the personnel.**

Thrilled with the signings to date. Is there a thought to getting an established fullback (Mack Strong, etc.) before the draft? Even if the player was a re-tread, I'd like to see someone with experience blocking for CD. Also, is there any thought to having a 2 running back pro-form backfield? I'd love to see the guy from Auburn get some more carries. **William Griffin.

WILLIAM: They would take a guy like Strong, but it's going to have to be at the right price and there is no indication that's ready to happen yet. Offensive coordinator Bb Bratkowski hasn't shown any two-back stuff like the famed "Jet Package," that never got off the ground with Corey Dillon and Ki-Jana Carter because Carter was always hurt. It looks like Auburn's Rudi Johnson is going to get the call only in relief.**

I think it's obvious what Marvin Lewis should do now he should go out and try to sign Seau he's still got what it takes to be great i quote John Madden in a video game " Tackle after tackle pro bowl after pro bowl this guy's goin straight to the hall when he's done" why not go out and atleast talk to him I mean he's the best or atleast 1 of the best to ever play the game and the position and the begals could use the leadership and maybe talk to Dwyane Rudd and draft Byron Leftwich over Palmer Leftwich was always great in college Palmer has 1 good year and he's the next Payton Manning if you ask me Palmer's the next Ryan Leaf and Leftwich is the next Payton Manning **Paul, Montana.

PAUL: There isn't enough money for Seau or Rudd, and the Bengals have to feel pretty good about their backers even without Takeo Spikes because Simmons moves to his natural spot, Foley returns to the strong side from an injury, and new middle linebacker Kevin Hardy was the leader of a Jacksonville defense that went to two AFC championship games.

Leftwich had too good of a career at Marshall to be forgotten like has been, but the one-year wonder bit for Palmer is getting a little old. He is the Pac-10's all-time passer, and he had to undergo a series of changes on offense during his career. Plus, he was never surrounded with a drop-dead supporting cast at wideout or running back. Palmer may not be Manning, but he's not Leaf, either. Maybe Tim Couch, but not Leaf.**

Will the new conditioning program for the Bengals incorporate any unconventional workout regimens? I would suggest some workouts, such as Tabeo, Yoga, Kung-Fu/Karate, or Ballet. I would also suggest they recommend some of the players find a couple of steep hills or small mountains where they live to run sprints. Ballet worked for Lynn Swann when he played. Yoga is excellent for stretching the body, as well as getting in tuned mind, body, and spirit. Karate works for Bruce Smith, and Jerry Rice's hill runs are well documented around the league. I say if you can't beat 'em, (Jerry or Bruce), join 'em. It's no secret to how they've lasted in the league so long.

**The hiring of former University of Maryland basketball strength coach Kurtis Shultz is designed to bring in some non-NFL perspective to the strength program.

Shultz, a former kick boxer, has players going through boxing-like drills to increase aerobics. Stretching before and after the workout is stressed and supervised. Shultz has also been known to work with sandbags (there is a new orange batch in the weight room), and as Ray Lewis' personal trainer, Shultz gained a measure of fame when he joined his client on ski slope running with 45-pound weights strapped to their backs.

The Bengals will get a healthy dose of it all, but the bottom line is that the great ones like Swann, Rice and Lewis, did it on their own because they wanted to be the best. The program headed by Chip Morton can only do so much. It always comes down to the player.

**

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