Concluding the 2005 season, the question on who the Bengals would draft first was clearly between two positions; a defensive tackle or safety. I believe, with recent speculation (ie, rumor) and personnel movement, that's not true anymore. I believe the Bengals will use their first pick for the offense; a tight end.
The Bengals need a pass catching tight end. Reggie Kelly, the primary starter the past three seasons, is a good blocking end, but has never really established himself as a receiving threat. Tony Stewart (not the driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevy) mostly plays special teams and Brad St. Louis (remember him, the fourth string tight end) only long snaps.
My reasoning is for the Bengals picking up a tight end:
- Kevin Walter signing a contract with the Texans the Bengals must match within a week of signing. The Bengals are very unlikely to match the offer and will (at least should) let him go. Walter is a fine player with nice contributions on special teams. There's one less receiver.
- There's word out of San Francisco that Kelley Washington could be offered a deal the Bengals would, again, have to match. This is purely speculation, but if it does happen, then the Bengals, most likely, will take the third round pick and be done with him. After all, how can you justify keeping a guy that was listed as inactive for ten games?!
- It's completely up in the air whether or not Chris Henry will even play in 2006. Drug possession charges and a felony gun charge will keep him in constant consultation with his lawyers this off-season. At first Henry was charged with three felonies but two charges were dropped because of lack of evidence. After the legal process is through, the NFL could impose suspensions of up to and including a full season.
- The general consensus is the Bengals defense needs an overhaul. Earlier in the week, the Bengals signed Dexter Jackson. The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting both LaVar Arrington and Sam Adams could be signed as well; soon.
I believe it's fair to say the Bengals biggest need in the NFL draft is a tight end that can catch AND block... at the same time. It would benefit the team in the long run picking up a franchise type tight end. We don't have one now and now would be the best time to do it.
Of course most of the speculation is, well, speculation. And the way this free agency period has gone, anything can happen at anytime for any amount.