Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Bengals e-mail Q&A

Mark Curnutte
Bengals fans are breaking out their free agent wish lists and weighing in on the quarterback and Corey Dillon situations.

Question, from Rick in Anderson Township: We are about $9-10 million under the cap, and I know some of that is used for the draft pool and injuries. My question is how many quality free agents do you expect the Bengals to sign heading into next year? I would love to see us get a top cornerback and maybe Damien Woody.

Answer: The number of free agents -- and which ones -- are hard to figure at this point. Don't look for the biggest names to head this way, similar to last year when the most important signings were lesser known cornerback Tory James and defensive tackle John Thornton.

Woody, the New England guard, might be the type who is too expensive to sign. Look for a linebacker or cornerback early in free agency.

The best free agent cornerback, Champ Bailey, is likely headed to Denver in a trade. Baltimore is going to hang onto Chris McAlister, and Charles Woodson will probably remain with the Raiders.

The Bengals are likely to upgrade at cornerback in free agency or the draft. Wyoming High School graduate Ahmed Plummer is the type of solid veteran cornerback who could be joining the Bengals. If the Bengals don't go that direction in free agency, there are a number of solid cornerbacks who will be available when the Bengals draft at No. 17 overall.

Q, from Derek in Raleigh, N.C.: My glass is half full take on the Kitna/Palmer situation. Do you agree that there isn't a more levelheaded player in the league capable of dealing with the issue than Jon Kitna?

Even if the Palmer experiment fails, Kitna could step right in. He knows the offense as well as anyone. I think Lewis is smart to at least give Palmer a shot.

A: Nothing is official yet, but it sure looks like Palmer will be the starter. Agreed, there is no more mature, solid pro in the league than Kitna. He will not rock the boat and will share his considerable knowledge of life and football with Palmer to help the former Heisman Trophy winner adjust to the pro game.

Q, from Brandon in Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Why is coach Lewis only hinting at starting Palmer? Realizing that Kitna had a remarkable year, I will still say that he isn't Cincinnati's answer. Kitna is a "B" quarterback at best that lacks athleticism. Yet he is a great individual with team respect. Considering the money we're paying Palmer and the potential he has, what could stop him from starting?

A: The sense here is the decision already has been made to start Palmer. Only injury or prolonged failure will get him out of the lineup. The Bengals can take comfort knowing that Kitna will be prepared if and when called upon.

Q, from Sam: Denver is attempting to deal for Bailey by offering running back Clinton Portis. Can't the Bengals compete by offering Corey Dillon for Bailey? Or is it that the Bengals can't afford Bailey?

A: The Redskins don't want Dillon, who has five more years of wear and tear on his body than Portis. The Bengals apparently also do not want to invest so much money in one player, as they would have to with Bailey. Even before New England made it popular, Lewis was compelled by the team concept.

Q, from Jeff in London: Any chance the Bengals would shop Dillon with the 17th pick and move up into the top 10 in the draft?

A: The Bengals are historically unwilling to trade first-round picks. The sense around the league is nobody really wants Dillon at this point. Maybe later, after the draft, he'll attract some interest.



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