Updated: 1:30 a.m.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, that aspiring NFL general manager, took note of the Bengals taking a pair of wide receivers in Coastal Carolina's Jerome Simpson and Florida's Andre Caldwell with their first four picks in this weekend's draft, and made the following pronouncement Sunday:
"Those two guys have made the team; that's no debate," Houshmandzadeh said. "Everyone else is fighting for a job. Me and Chad (Johnson)—if he's there—included. They drafted those guys high and they expect them to play."
Houshmandzadeh knows that when the Bengals have taken a wide receiver in the seven previous drafts Bob Bratkowski has been the offensive coordinator, they usually produce.
Just look at his first year, when Bratkowski got a pair of Pro Bowlers in Johnson and Houshmandzadeh in the second and seventh rounds, respectively.
Chris Henry, a third-rounder in 2005, caught 17 touchdown passes on his 88 catches before his off-field problems chased him off. Kelley Washington, a third-rounder in 2003, caught nine touchdowns and 72 balls before he left for free agency in 2007. In his one healthy year sixth-rounder Tab Perry had a touchdown running and catching as a rookie in what looked to be the start to a productive career that got derailed by a hip injury.
Perry's injury, Henry's release and letting Washington and Kevin Walter go to free agency chipped away at what once had been the NFL's deepest corps of receivers, leaving it without a No. 3 receiver that has more than 19 catches in a season from Carson Palmer heading into next month's on-field workouts.
"We've been consistently a top 10 offense and I would have thought we would have gone for a receiver in the third and then got one down the road," Houshmandzadeh said. "But we do need receivers. What, we've only got (six) under contract? I think it's going to be an easier adjustment for Caldwell because he played at Florida than it is going to be for Simpson because of the competition level."
Johnson and Houshmandzadeh may be under contract, but it doesn't look like they are going to join Antonio Chatman, Glenn Holt, Doug Gabriel and Marcus Maxwell when on-field voluntary workouts start May 13.
Houshmandzadeh is reluctant to tie his absence to his contract situation. He has referred to family and training issues and says there has been no exchange of proposals.
"I don't expect it," Houshmandzadeh said. "Maybe if there were talks, I would. But I'm not worried about it. I'm not thinking about it. I've got one year left. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."
Houshmandzadeh got a little ticked when asked if the little-known Simpson reminded him of himself coming out of Oregon State in the seventh round.
"No, he's not like me at all. No one is like me. He's a second-rounder," Houshmandzadeh said. "I knew about him. I knew he had the big hands, that he had a tough time catching at the combine, and that he did better at his pro day.
"The competition will be good. Simpson and Caldwell have made the team and it's going to come down to three or four others."
He seemed to be saying it with a straight face.
O-LINE BUZZ: The pick that seemed to give the Bengals the biggest kick was Kansas tackle Anthony Collins in the fourth round. In a space of 10 minutes after the pick, offensive line coach Paul Alexander got a text from an NFL offensive coordinator and personnel man from two different teams congratulating him on the value of the pick.
Collins said he has yet to play guard in a game, but Alexander indicated he thinks he can play every spot but center.
But Alexander says the pick wasn't in response to left tackle Levi Jones' trade request.
"Levi has no situation," said head coach Marvin Lewis when asked about Jones' situation.
Jones isn't going to hold out. But he hasn't forgotten the bitterness last preseason over the disagreement in how to rehab his knee and how he felt the coaching staff slowed his comeback by not playing him.
"Levi is a team-first guy," Houshmandzadeh said. "Whenever they show film of guys running to the ball, helping out a teammate, he's always there. He plays hard. I think there is a level of expectation about winning and when you don't reach it, I think there's frustration."
1-AA FRAT: Two of Appalachian State free safety Corey Lynch's 24 career interceptions came against new teammate Jerome Simpson's Coastal Carolina team.
"Man, that's a receiver right there. I expect him to be the next big name in receivers," Lynch said. "You can't ask for more than Jerome Simpson.
"He has the speed, he has the length, he has the jumping ability, the hands. He's the complete package. When I played him, I remember he made a catch that was on the 'number one play of the week' on ESPN the week before we played him. He's a very, very good player that's coming out of 1-AA."