In a posting about moves that could change the landscape of the 2011 season, NFL Network's Steve Wyche suggests one of those would be the return of Cedric Benson and Johnathan Joseph to Cincinnati. Of course we have to point out that it only applies to when the lockout is lifted, because someone will point out that they can't be re-signed until then -- as if we totally didn't know. Wyche writes:
It's all but a foregone conclusion that the Bengals will re-sign running back Cedric Benson. That would be wise -- if they plan to let him pound the ball consistently behind an offensive line built to grind. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph is an ideal player in Mike Zimmer's scheme and he'd be very hard to replace. Cincy can't afford to lose a top-notch cornerback in a division that's pretty stacked at receiver.
In fact, at one point during the offseason, we believed bringing Johnathan Joseph back would be just as critical as finding a quarterback for the offense. Wow. Really? Yes. The quarterback situation is muddy right now. Carson Palmer is threatening retirement, but there's always a chance he comes back. And once he does, he has four years remaining on his existing contract. Even then, the Bengals could always find a veteran to become a game manager until a long-term solution was found -- which was eventually believed to be addressed with Andy Dalton.
Bringing Joseph back in 2011 could be critical because we're not expecting the Bengals offense to explode whatsoever. A new quarterback, a muddy running back situation and a new offensive system will all contribute to a team that isn't expected to score many points. This team will need to be as good if not better than the 2009 defense to be competitive in 2011. Keeping Joseph as a starting cornerback addresses that.
Signing Joseph also has a lot to do with the future. With Adam Jones and Leon Hall likely becoming the team's starters in 2011 if Joseph isn't re-signed, the issue of cornerback will hit Cincinnati twice as hard this time next year with both players reaching the end of their existing contracts. Losing Joseph, Hall and Jones (for the sake of argument) in the span of 12 months could put the Bengals behind in their development process in a secondary that's already lacking big-time safeties.