Since Carson Palmer has demanded a trade back in January, we've been under the assumption that the Bengals are going to draft a QB in rounds one or two of the NFL draft - an assumption that's more or less been verified from various members of the Bengals brass. However, even a month ago, it was pretty clear that the team was making a distinct effort not to panic by reaching for a QB when Marvin Lewis stated
It’s going to be important not to spin our wheels worrying about it and being paralyzed by it but to be proactive ... I believe we have to get the right value at that pick. If it’s a quarterback or another player.
The great and exalted mothership writer, Geoff Hobson, reported that Lewis recently took that comment a step further. Hobson wrote,
He said the best thing for the club is to be flexible amid the turbulent labor situation. The NFL and players are waiting on federal judge Susan Nelson's ruling Monday that could send the players back to work or keep the lockout alive.
Lewis indicated free agency is an option in the quarterback search, but no one knows when it will happen or what form it will take.
What we know is this: the Bengals have worked out nearly every single quarterback prospect going into the 2011 NFL Draft and it's likely that they are targeting some of them for the upcoming draft. What's not clear is what will happen if the QBs they are targeting will be there by the time they pick and it's also unclear if the Bengals will feel pressured into taking a quarterback if they aren't comfortable with the players available.
This should all come as good news for those of you who feel that QBs are being overvalued in the draft this year. Essentially Lewis is saying (and I'm paraphrasing) "If the players we want aren't available to us when we want them, we don't have to reach."
If the dreaded run on QBs happens (some have predicted that as many as six quarterbacks could be drafted in the first round), the Bengals (hopefully) won't reach for a guy if there isn't much value there. So if the Newton, Gabbert, Ponder, Dalton, Locker and Mallet are all gone by the time the Bengals pick in the second round, we don't need to assume that they'll use that pick on Colin Kaepernick or Ricky Stanzi.
The comments also signify that the Bengals might consider filling in the gap at QB via free agency if things don't work out the way they expect in the draft. Most likely the team will have to look at free agents quarterbacks regardless, particularly if there is no offseason for rookies to learn the NFL game as John Clayton of ESPN.com has suggested.
Of course, we can't really read too much into any comments this time of year, with all the smokescreens that teams put out there. Lewis might be trying to slow play his hand by downplaying the fear of QB run or he might just be feigning interest in veteran free agent QBs. Who really knows?
All we can hope for is that the Bengals don't panic and grab the next Akili Smith or David Klingler because the guy they really wanted was gone.