Warning: I am about to agree with the Cincinnati Bengals. Well, kind of.
The Bengals don't want to pay first-round pick Andre Smith what he is arguably entitled to as the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft, and though it pains me to write this, I really don't blame them. Not a bit.
For one thing, their offensive line is actually looking pretty good, a very welcome sign after a four-year span in which the Bengals went from having one of the best offensive lines in the league in 2005 to one of the worst in 2008. The Bengals starting line has no true superstars or players making an exorbitant salary, relatively speaking of course. The entire unit has taken on the personality of center Kyle Cook and left guard Nate Livings, a couple of undrafted free agents who surely will increase their notoriety if they keep showing the physicality they displayed in training camp. Even established veterans like left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Bobbie Williams appear to have bought in. Why sign Smith to a mega-deal worth about $25 million guaranteed and potentially upset the apple cart or harmony among the offensive line?
The fact that Anthony Collins can man the right tackle position that Smith was slated to occupy is even more reason to refuse to back up the Brinks truck to Smith's house. Yes, Smith is a rare run blocker and the Bengals picked him for a reason, but it is highly unlikely he would be any better than Collins this season. Collins is a solid pass protector and an improving run blocker on the right side while Smith is, well, waiting. And since Smith is making the transition from left tackle at Alabama to right tackle in the NFL, we don't really know what type of player he is yet.
If I were running the Bengals and knew I would be unwilling to pay Smith something in between what the 5th and 7th overall selections in the draft were going to receive, I wouldn't have taken him in the first place. I would have found a way to either trade the pick or simply passed until later in the first round. Either that or drafted a player I thought would represent enough of an upgrade that I deemed him worthy of number six overall money.
That said, I don't fault agent Alvin Keels or Smith for trying to get a contract that adequately reflects Smith's draft status. Keels recently tweeted that in the eyes of Bengals owner Mike Brown the "ship has sailed" on the slotting system for NFL draft pick compensation. But now that the Bengals have gotten into this predicament, I think they should consider trading Smith's rights or letting him re-enter the draft pool next season. It may not be the best idea for building a perennial contender, but there is a good chance it is the more tenable position from a business standpoint.
Did you guys bring the heat with the e-mails and tweets this week? Let's find out ...
Interesting observations on the preseason. Yes, there are many storylines: watching new players develop, excitement for the upcoming season, and so on. No dispute there. The bottom line is this is still practice, nothing counts as far as wins and losses, records, and the play. It is all for evaluation for the new season. It is also needed.
What sticks in my craw is being charged full price for this practice. The NFL, owners and media trump up these games as if they mean something. Other than evaluating talent, the preseason games mean nothing and the prices charged to the consumers should be adjusted downward. Even half price seems too much in my opinion.--Dan Rodriguez, McKinney, Texas
That's understandable, Dan, and I can certainly empathize. But I think you have to look at the prices for those preseason games as an up-front cost for getting the opportunity to have season tickets for the regular season. In other words, the owners could make the preseason tickets less expensive but they are not going to do anything that would ultimately hurt their bottom line. I think they would in turn just raise the price of the regular season tickets to offset the loss of income from the preseason games.
Ross, I have four tickets to the Lions preseason game on Saturday that you can have -- lower bowl, inside the 25. Let me know where you want to pick them up. (I'm sure you could move over to the 50 by the end of the 1st quarter.)--Tony Piccinato, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
No thanks. I actually prefer for the most part to watch the games on the television in the comfort of my own home. I wrote that I thoroughly enjoy watching the preseason games, not attending them.
Don't you think your column about veteran players is just slightly hypocritical? You just bashed the Vikings for taking a shot with a one-year deal for a veteran QB and then write an article condemning teams for not signing more veterans to one-year deals.--Steve Hutsal, Brooklyn
You know what, you are right, that probably does seem hypocritical. And maybe it is to some extent. I think the biggest difference is that I don't believe Brett Favre necessarily represents an upgrade for the Vikings this season at quarterback whereas a guy like Edgerrin James, whom the Seahawks picked up this week, is likely an improvement at the backup running back spot for Seattle. Plus my other big issue with the Vikings' signing of Favre is the preferential treatment he received and the fact Brad Childress told the team and the public that he had closed the door on Favre after he shunned them four weeks ago. That is not the case for Derrick Brooks, Marvin Harrison, etc.
Will Jerry Jones give complete control of his team to a Mike Shanahan/Bill Cowher that everyone is predicting?--Mack1124 (via Twitter)
I really doubt it. Part of the reason guys like Jones and Dan Snyder became owners is because they love football and being intimately involved with the personnel decisions that are such a big part of running a franchise. They are playing a real life game of Madden or Fantasy Football and ultimately they really can't help themselves. And to some extent I don't blame them. If I owned a team, I know I would want to have a hand in the important decisions that were being made.
Do you think Favre is really dividing the Vikes locker room?--srs822 (via Twitter)
No. I don't think that will happen unless he plays poorly in regular season games. As long as he is playing well and the team is winning, I think it will be smooth sailing, even though I know some of the players think he is a bit of a drama queen after his waffling the past two years. If he plays bad or they start to lose, however, it will get ugly.
With only 45 dressed for Sunday, why would teams waste a roster spot on both kick & punt return men? Can't same guy do both?--runway29 (via Twitter)
Some guys can but a lot of guys are better at one or the other. Returning punts is more about quickness and making people miss while returning kickoffs is more a function of pure speed and hitting the seam at the exact right time. Plus, no teams will have two roster spots just for those roles. At least one of them will be a legitimate receiver, corner, or running back who also happens to return kicks.