As Steinbach closes his Cincinnati chapter, the urgency shifts towards signing role players, Geoff Hobson writes. And even that might be a struggle.
You can't fault Steinbach for his class.
"I can see paying those two guys. Why wouldn’t you pay those two guys?" Steinbach asked. "Levi’s a young guy who can still play for a long time and he’s protecting your biggest asset, which is Carson Palmer. And Willie is your motivational leader and locker room leader. It makes sense."
Now, let's examine if Kelly isn't re-signed.
It's well known, if you're a Bengals fan, that our tight ends are used for one thing: Blocking. Most hate that logic thinking it's a position that should be a weapon. The image of a young Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates on the Bengals offensive line has people salivating. And to me, it's a nice thought. I would love it. But as it is, the Bengals have enough weapons in their arsenal to remain in the league's top-ten since 2004.
Reggie Kelly did a majority of the blocking -- especially when he lined up in the backfield. Tony Stewart is mostly a special teams player.
Now, what happens if Kelly isn't re-signed? Does that mean Stewart gets promoted? Does it mean the team will adjust their free agency plan? Will a tight end be added in the NFL draft? If so, what direction do they go in? Another blocker or putting aside the "tight ends are for blocking" mind-set with a cold blooded destroyer of defenses?
Added to this variable is Chris Henry. Henry -- in my opinion, the league's best #3 WR -- has played that #3 guy that's usually associated with good tight ends. Obviously, not the Gonzalez's or the Gates' of the league. Henry creates mismatches with his athleticism against outside linebackers, nickel-backs and naturally slower safeties. It's one reason the Bengals have gotten away from needing a tight end as a weapon in the offense.
But it's still in the air if Henry will be suspended for the first four games of the season. That would hurt the dynamics and depth to this offense.
Questions, questions, questions.