This has been a topic of much debate. We have talked about Chad Ochocinco's future with the team for some time now. On one hand, many Bengals fans can see the team moving away from Ochocinco in favor of A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson, not only to rebuild the offense with young and talented players, but possibly even as a last ditch effort to coax Carson Palmer into coming back to Cincinnati.
It makes sense, too. Ochocinco's numbers have declined in recent years. He's due $6 million for the 2011 season, which is more than most would say they'd be willing to pay him.
On the other hand, though, Ochocinco's departure would mean that the Bengals' most experienced wide receiver is Andre Caldwell, who's still fairly inexperienced. That inexperienced receiver corps would be working hand in hand with a quarterback who's never taken a snap in an NFL game.
For that reason, tight end Reggie Kelly says he would be completely shocked if Ochocinco isn't on the Bengals roster in 2011.
"I can't see how Chad wouldn't be a Bengal in 2011, I really can't," he said when we talked on the phone on Monday. "Unless something would just go extremely out of this world, i guess you can say left field, so to speak. But I can't see a way that he won't be a part of this team, because, to be honest with you, a lot of people don't really understand Chad. They don't know him the way that we know him within the locker room. He's a great player, very experienced, very talented. All that wisdom and all that knowledge that he has, he can definitely help a young guy like A.J. Green."
There's no questioning that after Chad Ochocinco's 151 games, 751 receptions and 10,783 yards, there is an extremely steep drop to Caldwell's 38 games, 87 catches and 855 yards. It's even steeper when you consider that the guy who would be replacing Ochocinco has never played in an NFL game.
Kelly believes that Chad can help Green adjust from the college game to the NFL game, which can be a hard adjustment to make.
"It's hard for players to come in and transition from the college ranks to the NFL ranks," Kelly said. "You need a veteran guy that's there to show you the ropes, so to speak. To teach you the X's and O's and to teach you the little things it's going to take to be a pro, and I think Chad can definitely do that for young A.J. Green, along with making big plays alongside him as well. I foresee him coming back and if he doesn't I'll be totally surprised."
Either way, we won't hear anything about Ochocinco's future with the team until the owners and players come to an agreement, lifting the lockout. When that happens, we'll finally find out, once and for all, whether or not Dalton will be throwing the ball to both Green and Ochocinco.