Terrell Owens won't return next season and Chad Ochocinco is entering an option year on his existing deal. If the Bengals elect not to sign the receiver, the Bengals pay Chad $3.5 million and he Twitters his merry way into free agency. Or, the team could pay him the full $6 million for 2011 and Chad finishes out his existing contract.
On the T.Ocho show on Versus Tuesday night, Chad isn't sure he'll return, Geoff Hobson agrees and our own Jason Garrison writes, "Ochocinco parting ways with the Queen City may be in the cards a lot sooner than most of us would have thought."
Let me put the issue to bed. Chad Ochocinco will be with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011. No, no. No inside information here. It just makes sense. Let's examine.
|Rookie Wide Receivers Can't Do It Alone|
Back in 2001, former NFL Insider Len Pasquarelli wrote that "Although it would seem to be a skill position at which rookies could render an immediate impact, much like at running back, wide receiver has traditionally been a sore spot -- especially in the first round." Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant were drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Thomas, the first wide receiver drafted, caught all of 22 receptions for 283 yards receiving, dealing with health issues that's left him inactive in the past four games.
Bryant had a successful rookie campaign, catching 45 passes for 561 yards receiving through 12 games this season. He also had Miles Austin and Roy Williams. In 2009, six wide receivers were chosen in the first round. Darrius Heyward-Bey, the first wide receiver drafted, caught nine passes. Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt averaged 50 receptions for over 700 yards receiving during their rookie campaigns. Sure, you're thinking. That's perfectly acceptable for a rookie wide receiver, right? At the same time, they weren't the only offensive weapons on their respective teams. Maclin had DeSean Jackson. Harvin had Brett Favre in the middle of a career-year and Adrian Peterson. Britt had Chris Johnson on a Titans squad that began the year 0-6.
A rookie wide receiver will have the support of Caldwell, Simpson, Shipley and Gresham along with Bernard Scott out of the backfield. Potential they might have, a proven track record, they don't. If the Bengals draft a wide receiver in the first round, they can't expect a rookie to suddenly become a number one receiver without a period in which to groom the receiver ala Peter Warrick. The Bengals will still need another offensive weapon, especially considering that Cedric Benson could be entering free agency.
|Lack Of Experience And Depth At Wide Receiver|
When the season ends, the Bengals will have three wide receivers under contract: Andre Caldwell, Jerome Simpson and Jordan Shipley -- and Caldwell and Simpson will be entering the final year of their rookie deals. With Simpson, Shipley, Caldwell and a wide receiver drafted in, say, the first three rounds, the wide receiver roster remains short on personnel and experience. Andre Caldwell, 76 career receptions, 674 yards receiving and three touchdowns, is the most experienced of the group.
Chad has over 750 career receptions, 10,783 yards receiving and 66 touchdowns. He can come back in 2011 for the low cost of $2.5 million in 2011. Or else the Bengals can take another stab at a high-risk free agent, ala Antonio Bryant and Laveranues Coles.
|Bengals Still Need A Number One Receiver|
Even if the Bengals draft a number one receiver, the team would still need a primary option like Chad Ochocinco. None of the three receivers signed for next season scream out as being a number one threat, or at the very least, scaring opposing defenses into believing they'll threaten you in the vertical game. And we're not into games of potential between two receivers that will enter their fourth season.
Without Ochocinco, opposing defenses could routinely drop eight players in the box to defend against a Bengals rushing offense with only Bernard Scott under contract in 2011. Additionally, if the Bengals draft a wide receiver in the first three rounds, there's an adjustment period because, as most argue, wide receiver is one of the hardest positions for players to adjust to coming out of college.
Shipley has shown this year to be a very effective slot receiver. But a number one receiver? Shipley reminds me of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who still needed the threat of a wide receiver like Chad to keep safeties honest presenting match-up problems underneath where he thrived. And there's far too small of a sample size from Simpson to believe he's even worth a damn yet -- three career receptions, two of which that came less than a week ago, during three seasons is hardly enough of an argument to give him the keys to the starting lineup.
One could argue that the team didn't need Chad and they still won. That's true. But also consider that it was against a five-win Browns team, with Cedric Benson who will be a free agent after this year. Furthermore, Chad was still on the field keeping defenses honest allowing other players better match-ups.
Even if the team drafts a wide receiver in the first round, the Bengals will have to groom him into a role of being a big-time receiver that's a number one option on the offense. That's what first round picks are supposed to do. But that adjustment will need time. Therefore, the team still has to dig into free agency to rebuild the roster. And if the team wants a receiver with the talent and experience of Chad Ochocinco, then most likely they're going to be paying far more than the $2.5 million it would take to keep Chad around.
Should Chad stay? That's another question. Do you want Chad to stay? That's your opinion. Will Chad stay? Considering where this team is going, and all of the uncertainty with the relatively low cost of keeping him around, one could argue very much he'll be in Cincinnati in 2011.