We take a look at the team as it's currently structured in anticipation of figuring the team's chances of drafting certain positions. The four-part series will be broken down from major needs (expected first three picks), positions to be addressed, possible selections and positions that won't be addressed. Here are positions that we expect to be addressed, but not major needs.
QUARTERBACK: Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson are projected as early competitors for the team's revolving backup quarterback position. Though new players with different abilities raises the intrigue, let's not fool ourselves in believing that there's anything here; if Andy Dalton suffers a significant injury, this offense is screwed.
Johnson can do this, or that. Fine. Prove it. He hasn't in five seasons and no one wanted him last year. Johnson was unemployed throughout most of the 2012 season, save for a December 26 signing with the Cleveland Browns, who experienced injuries with Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy. Johnson played one game and lost a fumble on a quarterback sack.
Maybe he brings a different style or a package in conjunction with Dalton, but as a starter that replaces Dalton? I'm not sold. And looking at his history in the NFL and how other teams have approached Johnson, it's obviously not just me. That's not to say that he won't be the backup when the season begins. In fact there's a good chance that he will be, but it will be earned and not given. And one of those players that we figure competing for the job will be acquired through the draft in late April.
WIDE RECEIVER: Right now we project that Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Andrew Hawkins have already claimed the first four spots on the depth chart. Ryan Whalen has an early advantage with experience over Justin Hilton, Taveon Rogers, Dan Sanzenbacher and Lavasier Tuinei.
Cincinnati won't draft a wide receiver prior to the third round, nor are they seeking the No. 2. They believe that they have that with Sanu with a curiosity among the remaining young receivers on the roster. Andrew Hawkins is a gadget player with slot experience and Marvin Jones figures to play enough snaps to help stretch the field. When it comes to the redzone, Sanu might be that player that helps put Cincinnati's offense over the top.
We could easily see a mid-round selection. Ideally a player that offers opportunities on offense but presents unique special teams abilities. Brandon Tate figures to be a bubble-player during training camp. Tate was only signed after they couldn't failed to sign Ted Ginn Jr. Maybe we're just being hopeful.
OFFENSIVE GUARD: We're looking at depth here. Clint Boling and Travelle Wharton will compete for the starting job at left guard, pushing the loser (not a criticism, but the loser of the training camp competition) as a backup for both positions. Beyond that there's no depth; unless the Bengals continue experimenting with Dennis Roland and Anthony Collins at guard like last year.
There are many supporting the team releasing Wharton as a salary cap casualty, but we don't see it. Wharton holds a manageable $3.375 million cap hit. By releasing him the team will lose $1 million in dead money. There's no major bonuses remaining for Wharton that would force Cincinnati into a decision, who has already earned most of his guaranteed money in the first year. Depth will overrule the necessity for money saved in this instance -- and it's not like Cincinnati is hurting for cap space right now.
If Cincinnati releases Wharton, it'll be based on where the veteran guard is rehabilitating his knee.