During his interview at noon at the Combine on Friday, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis addressed the situation with Carson Palmer, saying that the team is proceeding as if the franchise quarterback won't be on the 2011 roster when the season kicks off. It's a safe enough statement that offers no certainties, largely because Marvin Lewis likely doesn't know himself. However, another big issue facing the Bengals are free agent signings, notably Johnathan Joseph and Cedric Benson.
According to the Mothership twitter page, Lewis said during Friday's press conference with the local media at the Combine, the Bengals are working at getting a deal done with cornerback Johnathan Joseph and Cedric Benson before March 4, when the owners will lockout the players in a work stoppage that could last into September.
Even if Joseph and Benson's deals do not make sense financially, the Bengals need to work on bringing back several of their free agents in an effort not to be hamstrung when the Collective Bargaining Agreement actually is resolved.
Consider that the team will only have so many draft picks to fill holes. After that they'll need to go through free agency to fill in the remaining holes. Free agency isn't like most sports where the top marquee players are typically retained by their own teams, finally released into free agency after their prime has already passed them by. It's entirely possible that the Bengals will have rookies and free agent acquisitions coming to Cincinnati two weeks before the start of the season without any cohesion with their teammates, knowledge of the plays, etc..
Joseph is a given. Benson is also, considering that the team plans to go back into their 2009 power rushing mode where the team needs a feature back -- a need in the draft if the Bengals can't retain Benson. There's other free agents this team should work on keeping, such as Dhani Jones, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Johnson, Roy Williams, Kyle Cook, Evan Mathis and Nate Livings for the sole purpose of having depth on the roster. After that, you can work towards improving the roster through competition you acquire through the draft and free agency, then weed out the pieces you don't need when the 2011 regular season starts.
However, if the team relies entirely too much on the NFL draft and free agency to rebuild the roster this year, they could be in serious trouble. Well, moreso than now.