Sunday, April 13, 2003

Bengals Q&A

Money available for free agents

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Fans want to know what the Bengals have planned for the rest of free agency and the draft.

Question, from Fred in New Market, Tenn.: Do the Bengals have any money left to spend on free agents? Is there any chance of signing defensive end Willie Whitehead from New Orleans or guard Mo Collins from Oakland?

Answer: The Bengals are roughly $5 million under the salary cap, and their primary veteran target at this time appears to be former Tennessee center Gennaro DiNapoli.

The sense here is Collins would be too expensive and cut deeply into the pot of money the Bengals like to reserve to sign draft picks and rookie free agents.

The Bengals saved some $1.3 million by releasing defensive end Vaughn Booker. There might be more such cash-oriented cuts coming soon.

Coach Marvin Lewis is not finished making over this team in his image.

Q, from Larry in Nutley, N.J.: Why would you think the Bengals are going for offense and then defense, and are they going to be 1-4 after the first five games?

A: Indications continue to grow that the Bengals will draft Southern Cal quarterback Carson Palmer with the first pick in the draft

They would still like to trade down, but there appears to be no takers. Concerns about the health of cornerback Terence Newman's left shoulder might have removed him from serious consideration at No. 1.

Lewis already has signed four defensive free agents, and though his acquisitions of tight end Reggie Kelly and fullback Mike Green will help, the Bengals need to pay attention to the offense, too.

The first five games are a challenge - Denver and Pittsburgh at home; and Oakland, Cleveland and Buffalo on the road. Even a much-improved Bengals team could enter the bye week at 1-4 or 2-3.

A six-victory first season that shows significant improvement would be a solid base on which to build, although Lewis has his sights set higher sooner.

Q, from Simon in Fort Thomas: Don't you think the Bengals would be a better team if they took wide receiver Charles Rogers and dumped Peter Warrick?

A: No. The expectations of Warrick have been unrealistically high, especially given the type of run-oriented offense he has played in here and the unsettled quarterback situation. Warrick appears poised for a big year.

The Bengals desperately want a speed receiver to mix with Warrick and Chad Johnson.

The Bengals have their eye on a big-time draft sleeper, wide receiver Tyrone Calico of Middle Tennessee State

Calico, who started college as an outside linebacker, is 6-foot-3, 223 pounds and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.


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