Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Bengals e-mail Q&A

Mark Curnutte
There's never an offseason for Bengals fans.

Question, from Floyd: I like the possibilities of Daryl Gardener as a Bengal, however, I wonder if Marvin Lewis can contain Daryl's off-field behavior?

Answer: There's a strong possibility that Lewis wouldn't have pursued Gardener if Lewis weren't confident he could get the most out of the veteran defensive tackle.

In 2002 in Washington, Gardener was a Pro Bowl alternate after recording a career best 71 tackles and four sacks. Lewis was the Redskins defensive coordinator.

Gardener doesn't have a lot of other options in the NFL. Cincinnati could be his best last chance.

The Bengals did on Tuesday confirm a Gardener visit. Though the two sides have agreed on a four-year, $9.3 million contract, the deal appears to be hinging on the health of Gardener's back and whether he is fit enough to continue playing.

The deal is a low-risk proposition for the Bengals. Though Gardener could earn up to $1.6 million in his first season if he reaches playing-time and performance incentives, he will receive no signing bonus. And the Bengals are likely to be out less than $300,000 if it doesn't work out.

Q, from Rich in Milford: Why don't the Bengals try to work a deal with the Packers for cornerback Mike McKenzie? They could start McKenzie and Deltha O'Neal and use Tory James as a nickel corner. It would also allow them to go slowly with Keiwan Ratliff. Sending a second-round pick for a guaranteed talent like McKenzie is better than guessing at who would be available in the second round of the draft next year.A shutdown corner like McKenzie is the last glaring weakness in their starting lineup.

A: The Bengals, using the New England model, are unlikely to overpay for a player such as McKenzie. Money is the reason that McKenzie won't be a Bengal.

Q, from Brian in Dayton, Ohio: You've seen the team in the mini-camps, so what's your take on the new players? I was pleased with the draft, based on the information from the Mel Kiper book, should I doubt what I read from what you've seen?

A: So far, the new players - especially the four defensive players drafted in the second and third rounds - are extremely fast.

Players have not worn pads, and there has been no hitting, so the evaluation is limited. Ratliff and safety Madieu Williams have displayed a nose for the football, a talent scouts said they had. And linebacker Caleb Miller, in addition to his speed, has an uncanny sixth sense that allows him to anticipate the offensive movement before it happens.

Wide receiver Maurice Mann, though he has fine speed and gets opens, needs to catch the ball more consistently.

Q, from Chris in Gallipolis: Besides Gardner filling a big spot for the Bengals on defense, where else do you feel might be a concern of lack of depth this year in case of injuries?

A: Cornerback is still a potential problem. There is depth but a lot of uncertainty. Can O'Neal regain his Pro Bowl form from 2001? Is Alvin Porter the nickel, or rookie Ratliff. Offensive line could be another area of concern, though the free agent acquisitions of Bobbie Williams and Larry Moore have brought in a pair of productive professionals.

In all, though, the 2004 Bengals have the look of a deep team - much deeper than a dozen previous Bengals teams.


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