Thursday, April 10, 2003

Rumors aside, Bengals trade a long shot



By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The trade rumors - some legitimate, some not - have started in earnest regarding the Bengals and the first overall draft pick.

Rumor No. 1 this week had the Bengals talking to Tampa Bay about trading the top pick for defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Both coaches, the Bengals' Marvin Lewis and the Buccaneers' Jon Gruden, almost laughingly denied that one.

"No," was all Lewis had to say when asked about the rumor Wednesday.

As the April 26-27 draft approaches, the most likely Bengals choice remains quarterback Carson Palmer.

The other hot rumor of the week has Houston trading its No. 3 pick and one of its other first-day picks to the Bengals for the first overall choice.

MOCK DRAFT: AN EARLY LOOK
The draft is 17 days away, but here's how the first 10 picks look right now:
Pick Player Pos. College Comment
1. Bengals Carson Palmer QB USC Has look of rare franchise quarterback
2. Lions Charles Rogers WR Mich. St. Go-to guy for QB Joey Harrington
3. Texans Andre Johnson WR Miami Houston gets its man for QB David Carr
4. Bears Terrell Suggs DE Ariz. St. Pass rusher to replace Rosevelt Colvin
5. Cowboys Terence Newman CB Kan. St. Impact player slides down
6. Cardinals Jimmy Kennedy DT Penn St. Run stopper in middle
7. Vikings Dewayne Robertson DT UK Will help solve problems up front
8. Jaguars Byron LeftwichQB Marshall Mark Brunell can't play forever
9. Panthers Eric Steinbach G/T IowaOffensive lineman fills big need
10. Ravens Kyle BollerQB Cal He's the QB the team really wants
- Mark Curnutte

The reasoning behind the rumor is that the Texans want to draft wide receiver Charles Rogers (Michigan State) and don't want to lose him to Detroit, which has the second overall pick.

"He's terrific," Lions owner William Clay Ford said of Rogers, a Michigan native, in Wednesday's Detroit News. "I'd be silly to say, 'Who's Rogers?' and, 'Do we think he's any good?' You're darn right we do. If we could get him, it would be a wonderful choice."

The second-year Texans have six extra draft picks; they already traded one of the bonus choices. The Lions have no additional picks. President and CEO Matt Millen told Lions beat reporters Wednesday the team does not have enough "ammo" to trade up with the Bengals.

The Texans also appear to be set on wide receiver Andre Johnson, who played college ball at Miami (Fla.). Johnson is 6 feet 3, slightly taller than Rogers, and Johnson has almost 20 pounds on Rogers.

But are the Bengals talking about a trade with Houston?

"I'm not going to confirm that, either way," Lewis said.

Word around the league is that trade talks involving Houston and the Bengals are a smokescreen started in Cincinnati to force the worried Lions into swapping picks with the Bengals.

It's also believed that the Bengals are most interested in two players - Palmer (Southern California) and cornerback Terence Newman (Kansas State). Both players are scheduled for pre-draft visits this weekend during the Bengals' voluntary veteran minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Lewis also has said Rogers and quarterback Marshall Byron Leftwich, who visited Cincinnati Tuesday, were two of the top four players on the team's draft board - along with Palmer and Newman.

If the Bengals were to take Rogers with the first pick, the Lions probably would draft Newman No. 2. Newman has or will make pre-draft visits to the teams holding the first seven picks, including the Lions, and to No. 12 St. Louis.

"My impression is (the Bengals) are interested in him," said David Ware, Newman's agent. "He is a guy who can come in and play on the first day."

But the last No. 1 pick spent on a cornerback came in 1956, when Pittsburgh took Gary Glick from Colorado A&M.

Quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall in four of the past five drafts and nine of the past 20. It's a list that features two - Peyton Manning (Colts, 1998) and Drew Bledsoe (Patriots, 1993) - to whom Palmer often is compared.

The Bengals will be Palmer's first visit. He's starting to feel the anticipation of being No. 1.

"It's getting close and I'm doing well. I'm getting a little anxious, though," Palmer wrote in a diary on NFL.com. "I'm heading out to Cincinnati this weekend. I leave Saturday and come back on Sunday.

"I'm not too sure how important this trip is. This is my first team visit, so I'm not sure what to expect and what exactly is going to be going on, but I'm really looking forward to having another chance to hang out with the Cincinnati coaches and hopefully get a chance to see the team practice."

The prevailing wisdom is Palmer is a franchise quarterback and would be given the time to develop under starter Jon Kitna for at least one season.

The first overall is just one of nine picks the Bengals have in the draft. They also select at Nos. 33, 65, 98, 118, 136, 174, 215 and 259 overall.

A trade, however unlikely, would have to garner the Bengals an additional first-day pick - coming in Rounds 1-3.

E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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