As we are completely bombarded with Super Bowl propaganda over the next week, the Bengals front office is likely working on deciding their plan for the fast approaching offseason. There are several players that need to be re-signed, including defensive end Michael Johnson as well as right tackle Andre Smith. There are also players that are forcing the Bengals to make tough decisions, like Rey Maualuga (though we wish the decision wasn't that tough), Bernard Scott and a couple others.
Cincinnati's ESPN 1530's Lance McAlister posed a question about the Bengals investing in five players over the next five seasons. In 2006 he believed those players were Carson Palmer, Odell Thurman, Chad Johnson, Levi Jones and Eric Steinbach. In '07, those players were Palmer, Johnathan Joseph, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Levi Jones and Chad Johnson. In '08 it was Palmer, Robert Geathers, Joseph, Keith Rivers and Houshmandzadeh tied with Leon Hall. Finally, in '09, it was Palmer, Rivers, Maualuga, Hall and Andrew Whitworth.
Who are the five they must invest in now? There is enough young talent on the Bengals team to make that a tough decision to make. Obviously A.J. Green and Geno Atkins are No. 1 and No. 1A on that list, but who else makes the cut? Has Andre Smith shown you enough to make the cut? How about Vontaze Burfict? Is one great season enough to make the list? We can't forget about Leon Hall, the team's best cornerback, or Andy Dalton, the team's young quarterback.
What about guys like Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Reggie Nelson, Kevin Zeitler, Andrew Whitworth? I think after the last two seasons, picking five, and only five players, to build a future around would be tough.
If I was forced to choose, I would go with Green, Atkins, Hall, Smith and Dalton, and after choosing those five I would still be extremely unhappy because players like Zeitler, Burfict, Johnson, Dunlap and a few others that I like a lot are left out. However, the way I see it, Green is one of the best wide receivers in the league and if you lose him, you lose a huge chunk of your offense. You can't allow Atkins to leave as he's the best interior defensive lineman in the league. Hall is the team's best cornerback. Smith is the team's best offensive lineman and Dalton is the team's quarterback, and if you don't stick with him, you don't have a good team to begin with.
Which five (and only five) would you stick with over the next five seasons?