Just at the right time, about an hour before the Simpsons, Adam Schefter wrote that the Bengals have been, and are, contemplating a run for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Joe Reedy called it a smokescreen, but didn't clarify what he meant. We had assumed others in the league threw his name out there, forcing Seattle to give Marshall more money whenever an offer sheet is actually offered. Since this isn't a trade and since Marshall is a restricted free agent, Denver can't negotiate a trade and aside from another team signing Marshall to an offer sheet, the Broncos have little control over anything that happens from here on out.
We could see it that the Broncos are manipulating the market because they really don't want Marshall to leave. But that doesn't make sense either. Why offer only a first-round compensation tender and not the first and third-round compensation tender? If the Bengals were the one's contemplating acquiring Marshall with the goal of creating a smokescreen, it would hurt Cincinnati in the long run. On the other hand, we wouldn't put it beneath agents to throw other team names around forcing the Seahawks to panic and offer more to what they had originally planned to offer -- if they plan to offer anything.
However, Adam Schefter reiterated Monday morning during ESPN's Mike and Mike Show that the Bengals ARE talking about it internally and that they have reached out. Schefter cautioned that all they've done is talk about it with each other and aside from that, nothing tangible has happened.
While I'm sure it's a long shot that the Bengals would sacrifice a first round pick for Brandon Marshall, I believe the story is very much alive. I also wouldn't disregard Reedy easily either; he tends to be right about these things. So it's another Bengals offseason. Not much happening during the opening weekend of free agency and a side of speculation to wet our appetites.
UPDATE. Reedy clarifies: In response to the smoke screen comment, Joe Reedy clarified. "The conversations have been more along the lines of 'What if this', and that 'what if that' happens," Reedy said in an email. "It's one of those, if all other options are exhausted, do we really try to take a shot or not. And that shot would require Haynesworth-type dollars and supplanting Chad as the number one receiver."
We knew that Marshall wouldn't come cheap. The first round pick is the cheapest aspect of the scenario. And you have to consider friction with Chad having two number one receivers, with Chad eventually being replaced and he knowing that. Reedy points out that, if anything, you're adding a dynamic to the equation of forcing "Bryant and Owens to do something."
The more likely explanation is that the Bengals are trying to drive down the demands of the other receivers whom they currently are considering -- Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens. Bryant made nearly $10 million in 2009; he likely is looking for a deal that averages close to that number. And Owens consistently has been able to get big-money contracts even in one-team bidding wars, under the notion that Owens won't be "happy" with his new team unless he's making the kind of money that causes him to conclude that his skills are being properly respected.
In the end, my opinion hasn't changed. The Bengals won't acquire Brandon Marshall. Not for a first round draft pick. Not for the money that's likely forced to keep him longer than one season where he'll be bitching and moaning about a new contract.