Houshmandzadeh, who tied for the league lead with 112 receptions last season, is in the last year of his current deal and is seeking a significant pay raise after earning his first Pro Bowl nomination. Houshmandzadeh's loss would have a significant impact on the Bengals' offense as he has become
As a precise route runner with exceptional quickness, Houshmandzadeh does most of his damage from the slot in the Bengals' spread offense, and the Bengals currently lack a suitable replacement on their roster. But the Bengals must be careful not to overpay Houshmandzadeh for his role as their No. 2 receiver. A former coach of a divisional rival says, "Houshmandzadeh is a great slot receiver, but he benefits from having Johnson on the outside. Without Johnson commanding double teams, T.J. wouldn't be able to feast off single coverage from the slot."
If the Bengals are looking for a precedent for handling a Pro Bowl receiver who is considered a No. 2, they should closely examine the contract signed by
• League observers are also carefully monitoring how the Bengals handle Johnson's trade demands. The Bengals have repeatedly stated they have no desire to move the disgruntled four-time Pro Bowl receiver, but his critical barbs in the media have clearly been an attempt to force the team's hand. "We have seen
That opinion wasn't shared by another personnel executive for a NFC team, who said, "At some point he embarrasses the franchise and creates a major distraction, and you are better off moving him now while his value is still high."
History indicates the Bengals will not be swayed by Johnson's theatrics as the Bengals weathered similar storms with
The Jaguars and
The problem for both sides is finding a deal that makes sense for where Garrard ranks at this stage of his career. Although he has won more playoff games than Romo (1), his passing statistics pale in comparison to other top passers, including the Cowboys' star, and critics view him as a one-year wonder after his surprising performance in 2007.
Garrard's supporters will single out his impressive efficiency (65 percent completion percentage with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions) and winning percentage as a starter (.625) as validation for a big payday.
The Browns faced a similar dilemma with
Portis, who finished sixth in the league in rushing with 1,262 yards, is spending his offseason training at the team's complex. "We think that he can be a 1,800-yard back this season," assistant head coach/running backs
The Redskins are keeping their blocking schemes intact and believe that continuity will allow Portis to thrive as their feature back. Furthermore, the Redskins are contemplating expanding Portis' role as a receiver after the vet hauled in a career-high 47 passes last season.
"We know that he was productive as a receiver last season, but most of his receptions were of the 'check-down' variety," Mitchell said. "We will see how he runs routes during mini-camps and O.T.As (Organized Team Activities) and determine if we can make him a bigger part of the passing game. He is a complete player with an unbelievable set of skills and we must find a way to maximize his talent."