Why can't you build through the draft and free agency?

An interesting, yet, often depressing debate was surfaced by Chick Ludwig. The Dayton Daily News beat writer supports signing Albert Haynesworth. I agree. And it's not like we're short of cash. That excuse is long gone -- especially when you consider the money freed after 2007 contracts run out (or the termination of others). While the team offer deals to Landon Johnson and Dhani Jones, it's rather telling that they'd keep such a closed mind with Haynesworth. Why?

Perhaps, a quick recap of the article I'm speaking of.

If the Cincinnati Bengals really want to make a statement, they'll land Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency.

Not try to get him. Get him. But it won't happen; that's not how the Bengals do business.

We heard it again from head coach Marvin Lewis last week.

"Free agency, that's not gonna fix all," Lewis said. "That's not gonna fix any team. When you inherit those guys or bring those guys on, there comes a period of time where there's some reversion back to what they know and it may be a little different than what you're teaching at that point.

"When you get in the heat of the battle, you've got to make sure those things are right. As I've said many times, we'll continue to build the team through the draft."

Last time I checked, Reggie White — the greatest free-agent signing in NFL history — sure helped the Packers. And Roosevelt Colvin, Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, Donte' Stallworth and Adalius Thomas have contributed mightily to New England.

Yet, in this article, Lewis admits the team needs to put more talent around Palmer. Does that mean we need more offensive players to help Palmer? Does that mean we need to bolster our defense where throwing the ball away on third down for a punt won't invite the other team to drive 90 yards on six plays for a touchdown?

Why is it that we keep falling for this tactic? We've heard a nice speech from Lewis about the need to gut everything. We've heard the need to get back to our old 2003-4 form. Though I'm not sure using two 8-8 seasons as your example for success is very appealing for frustrated Bengals fans.

Out with the old, in with the new. Right? That was the feeling I had when being sucked into the Marvin Lewis "do it over" project. Which makes me wonder, what exactly he has envisioned. Is he going to gut the team? No, not likely. They're more focused on signing two linebackers, while good in their own right, while a powerful defensive tackle will likely use Cincinnati as a connecting flight for a team serious about upgrading their defense.

The draft is an unreliable form of rebuilding a team. With a draft, you have college players that rarely contribute to any stream of success their rookie campaigns. It takes time -- for most players -- to understand and play their roles effectively. To adapt to a life-long game that, at first, seems foreign. Some get better within the first two seasons, some level off to mediocrity while few are guys like Patrick Willis or, closer to home, Odell Thurman. Furthermore, it's not like the Bengals have a reputation of drafting superstars each season. We're lucky if we hit two per draft that remain with the team.

Building a team through the draft gives off another indirect -- if not deceptively promoted -- direction of this team. It does not give the impression that the Bengals will do what they must to win in 2008. Perhaps that was what Lewis made us understand of taking the way-back machine to 2003-4. To rebuild a new mind set. Whatever that may be. Thus losing any prospect of picking up Albert Haynesworth -- arguably the best available free agent this year.

Once you pass Haynesworth, you have Jarad Allen, Justin Smith, Terrell Suggs, Mike Rucker and Corey Williams. At linebacker there's Lance Briggs, Tedy Bruschi and Kawika Mitchell. My point is that there's not a big rush of defensive talent available. Think about it. Most great talent will likely remain with their teams or overlook Cincinnati. It's the way of things. I suppose. Then what makes me think that Haynesworth is different?

So what's the problem with going after Haynesworth -- provided he's even interested -- while still rebuilding your team through the draft? At this point, I'm arguing Lewis' point. After all, we've dumped our veterans like Brian Simmons and let Kevin Kaesviharn walk. It's unlikely that Bryan Robinson re-signs. Dexter Jackson and Deltha O'Neal could have their contracts terminated. Money between Justin Smith and the team appears so far apart that it's unlikely he'll re-sign.

What does that leave you? A defense that's further stripping a veteran presence and a philosophy of building through the draft that hasn't returned any significant investment.

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