Now that there seems to be an actual end to the lockout on the horizon, talks about who the Bengals should re-sign and in what order don't seem completely ridiculous. For a long time we've talked about the importance of re-signing Johnathan Joseph. The Joseph-Leon Hall duo has also proven to be one of the best in the NFL. In a year in which the Bengals will rely heavily on a running game and on the defense, it only makes sense that the team would want to keep the best possible players on the field.
The most recent arrest of Adam Jones makes it even more important for the team to re-sign Joseph. It's unclear as to exactly what will happen to Jones and even if he'll see any sort of punishment from the league, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. The team surely wouldn't want to find themselves in a situation in which they allow Joseph to go to another team just to find out that Jones will be unavailable in 2011, even if it's just part of the season.
If the Bengals do re-sign Joseph, they'll find themselves in a similar situation after the 2011 season, when Hall is a free agent. Negotiations with Hall will start long before the end of the 2011 season, though. Those negotiations will begin the second that the particulars of the Joseph deal, if there is a deal, are announced.
While I believe that Joseph is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, I also believe, and so do the Bengals, that Hall is better. He is younger, he has four more interceptions and he's never missed a game (compared to the 13 games Joseph has missed). We know that, the Bengals know that and Hall knows that. If the Bengals re-sign Joseph for, say a four-year $32 million deal, it wouldn't surprise me if Hall asks for more after the 2011 season on the basis that he's been more durable and more productive. Why wouldn't he?
If that happens, can the Bengals really afford to have over $60 million locked up in their cornerbacks over the next few years? I know that Palmer's retirement and the possibility of forced spending could help, but that's still a lot of money.
If the Bengals truly do value Hall more, it may be better for them to pass on re-signing Joseph if it would mean keeping Hall in a Bengals uniform for a few more years.
When the lockout is lifted, the next few days will be pretty chaotic. Each team will have a three-day window to re-sign their players before they go to a free agent status. If the Bengals don't re-sign Joseph in that three-day period, don't plan on him coming back to the Bengals. While that does definitely suck, keep in mind that it could make it easier to re-sign Hall in 2012.