The Cincinnati Bengals will end the season next Sunday having to make several decisions, which largely impacts the future of this team. Chad Ochocinco. Marvin Lewis. Cedric Benson. Those are just your veteran core guys. Defensively, with the Fisher Price boys (Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Pat Sims, Carlos Dunlap) anchoring the defensive line in the foreseeable future, the Bengals are going to have an issue in the secondary.
Case in point, Johnathan Joseph will be a free agent, Leon Hall and Adam Jones will enter the final year under contract and the team's secondary roster signed for 2011 looks like this: Chris Crocker, Tom Nelson, Reggie Nelson. It's such an issue that the team is likely to do some work rebuilding the safety depth through free agency and the NFL draft.
What's very possible this offseason is that the Bengals will use their franchise tag on Johnathan Joseph to, at the very least, put off worrying about the cornerback for this season and focus on safeties. According to Joe Reedy, the franchise tag for a cornerback last year was $9.566 million, which will increase due to inflating contracts among the top-five paid players, spearheaded by Darrelle Revis' four-year, $46 million contract.
If the Bengals offered Joseph the franchise tag, the veteran cornerback said:
"I'd sign it the first day," Joseph said with a laugh. "Hopefully we can get a deal done before then."
Agreed. Even though it doesn't seem like that the Bengals will retrain Joseph and Leon Hall after 2011, it would seem even less likely with both heading into negotiations.
An indication that Joseph will leave? If the Bengals franchise Joseph, it makes it all the more likely he'll leave after the 2011 season. The Bengals franchised place kicker Shayne Graham in 2009, who is now kicking with New England. The Bengals franchised offensive tackle Stacy Andrews in 2008, who is now playing in Philadelphia. The Bengals franchised defensive end Justin Smith in 2007, who is now playing in San Francisco.