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What could have the Bengals done differently with T.J. Houshmandzadeh?

There's a fair amount of disappointment (aka, royally ticked off), that the Bengals "allowed" T.J. Houshmandzadeh to leave Cincinnati. We believe that it's justified based on what this team has historically accomplished when the issue has been about money. However, on this one, we're not totally sure how the Bengals could have addressed it differently.

Granted, they didn't franchise Houshmandzadeh, instead tagging Shayne Graham. But the franchise tag was nothing more than an inevitability. We pay Houshmandzadeh $9.88 million in 2009, and then what? Are the Bengals playoff contenders in 2009 and tagging Houshmandzadeh would have given us a playoff bound team? After that season is over, the league hits an uncapped year and the chances of signing Houshmandzadeh were even more remote.

The question next became, was the Bengals offer fair? The rough estimate is that the Bengals reportedly offered Houshmandzadeh a five-year deal, roughly $35 million around $11 million guaranteed. The Seahawks offered the same length, $40 million and $15 million guaranteed. Cincinnati didn't offer a low offer, they tried to remain competitive, but at the end of the day, this became evident:

  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh wanted the most money
  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh didn't appear to want to be here

Our point is the latter. We could be wrong, but at no point did it appear that the Bengals were really considered to win Houshmandzadeh. Sure, we were reportedly one of the finalists, but we can't get past the fact that the former team was on the table to force Seattle or Minnesota to maximize their offer.

It would have been nice to have Houshmandzadeh back, no doubt. He was critical to our offense. But he wasn't going to come back, and we're not sure what the Bengals could have done differently.