Uncertainty greets Bengals


Chad Ochocinco

The week that was.

It began last Monday morning in Mobile, Ala., with a rare public statement by Bengals president Mike Brown turning down Carson Palmer's trade request and ended Saturday night when the football staff landed back in Cincinnati amid a sea of questions that have made this the most uncertain offseason in team history ranging from the budget to the starting lineup to the coaching staff.   

The week that included agent David Dunn's handwritten "Palmer Proclamation" briefly outlining his client's desire to leave the Bengals and an offer to host a steel cage match between Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco mercifully came to an end when the South beat the Bengals' North team, 24-10, in the Under Armour Senior Bowl.

A quick look at the next month or so before the collective bargaining agreement expires March 4:

THE CBA: With no idea what economic system the NFL is going to adopt or when the CBA is going to be in place, business is virtually frozen. There is about a three-week window beginning early next month when teams can trade players, but a major signing involving a Johnathan Joseph-type deal looks to be virtually impossible because neither side knows the financial ramifications on a new landscape.

PALMER: It's hard to know what has upset Brown more. The trade request from one of his most favorite players of all time? Or the fact that it went public? What we do know after a week of living in this new world for a week is that Palmer has as much of a shot of getting traded this year as The Ocho did in 2008.

Which is to say the chances are Slim and None and Slim got cut when the request went public via an ESPN story last Sunday.

After Brown confirmed that Palmer had met with him to ask about a trade, Palmer worked out a statement over the phone with Dunn before leaving for the hospital Monday for the birth of his third child. With his ever-present yellow-lined legal pad, Dunn handed one of the sheets to a reporter in an elevator of a Mobile hotel and elaborated only on the weather.

Not exactly the Gettysburg Address, but it was shorter and has set up a showdown. The retirement option was out there on Sunday but nowhere was it mentioned Monday. Brown doesn't think it's practical, but he's never given a guy this much money and if there's one guy that doesn't need the money, it's Palmer. Plus, the family is growing and while he's one of the great competitors the Bengals have ever had, he's a next-door celebrity who covets his privacy and a normal upbringing for his kids. At the very least, he's in position to retire.

One Bengal said this week he thought Palmer could return and still be an effective leader simply because of his talent and the fact his mates understand his frustration. Brown admitted the Bengals have to re-recruit Palmer, but what changes would sway him back into the fold?

Whatever they are, they will be speculated daily, as will the trades. The hot one in Mobile was San Francisco, given that new coach Jim Harbaugh has ties to Dunn and that Palmer's wife is from the San Jose area. The other one is Carolina given Brown's admiration for Cincinnati-bred quarterback Tony Pike.

But forget it. As of now, Palmer is going nowhere and Brown believes his team is talented enough that with a few moves it can get back to the playoffs.

There is enough civility between the two sides that maybe a lame duck compromise could be worked out for a year while the Bengals develop a young quarterback. But the problems with that were magnified in Saturday's Senior Bowl, where none of the six quarterback prospects looked ready to lead an NFL team on a field trip never mind six games in the AFC North.

The words that kept coming back during the week had been uttered by Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman several years ago and went along the lines of, "If the Bengals don't get to the Super Bowl multiple times with Carson Palmer, something is wrong."

COACHES: Brown also revealed last week that former Vikings head coach Brad Childress wouldn't be joining the Bengals coaching staff. But there were indications that Lewis was still trying to find an offensive coordinator during the week in Mobile. And, no, it didn't appear to be old Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. The mid-week report that Kosar was being considered for a position with the Bengals puzzled the decision-makers.

The Bengals only make an announcement about their coaches when the staff is finalized and that hasn't happened yet. Lewis says he wants to make major changes on offense but that they aren't made the week of coaching an all-star game. So it was business as usual Saturday night in a game where all the coaches stay on the field and none go up into the press box.

The next few days should yield an announcement. The Bengals aren't the only ones in the division rustling around on offense as the Ravens shuffle their staff. Would that be enough to appease Palmer if there's change? Brown says Palmer didn't make him aware of any specific complaints.

THE OCHO: Ochocinco had a bizarre but quiet week. That's what happens when the franchise QB wants out even if you announce you're changing your name back to Johnson. He hasn't done it legally, and he'll have to pay off Reebok to get the name back on the jersey.

Now The Ocho says he wants to stay, so naturally it looks like he's gone. Lewis' public shots at him point to a divorce, but first the Bengals would probably like to explore a trade. But don't look for one in the upcoming window. They'll want to see what happens in the draft, but without a CBA, they can't trade players for picks.

(Which is why the draft on the last weekend in April is a date to circle for negotiators.)

In the middle of it all, The Ocho got off the best line. When Lewis said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was too smart to sign The Ocho, he basically asked, "Then why am I still here?"

Because the Bengals want to make sure all their receivers are healthy and ready before they make the move.

And that could be awhile.

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