It's not the biggest story this offseason. There's more going on this offseason than simply standing by and updating things that aren't updated with Andre Smith negotiations. But it is the most popular right now. Why is that? The Bengals offensive line was rated by The Football Outsiders Almanac as "perhaps the single worst unit in the entire NFL last season." Naturally, Andre Smith alone could provide a sense of optimistic improvement. Kyle Cook has convinced us, at this point at least, that he can handle center and Nate Livings was apart of the team's offensive line stabilization to conclude last season.
However, Livings wasn't alone. Anthony Collins made his first NFL start against the Pittsburgh Steelers on a Thursday night game. James Harrison was shutout and Collins not only held his own; he quickly started convincing us that he could handle the job. With experience and improvement (considering he would be playing his senior year), Collins could be a legit offensive tackle in the NFL. Collins is working at right tackle during Training Camp in his "what about me?" campaign.
So Smith updates are not the major story. There's a feeling of comfort with the unit that's in camp right now, practicing into a cohesive unit. Andrew Whitworth, the team's offensive line leader, is talking about his linemates being nasty. Bobbie Williams thinks this unit is good. Offensive line coach said he was, at least on Friday night, satisfied -- when was the last time a Bengals coach said he was satisfied?
+ As for Smith, Joe Reedy updates, calling it a "perfect storm." However, he points out that the contract offered for Darrius Heyward-Bey blew everything by signing him to a deal that's a "22 percent increase over last year's No. 7 contract." This means that other agents may look for that same increase. And the Bengals offering only $33 million, which is $5 million less than Heyward-Bey, doesn't make likely that a deal is imminent.
The idea of an NBA-style rookie cap makes the most sense to all of us. Is that applicable now? No, of course not. However, I would expect it to be a major issue during negotiations between the league and union as the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2010 season. Veteran players have stepped out and complained about the size of rookie deals for players in the top five and top ten. In an age in which veterans players are worried about benefits when they're leaving the game, its never made sense to offer rookies, whom are only allowed to play for the team that drafted them that year, top money compared to the average of top earners at their position in the league.
If the league and union agrees to a rookie cap, then this whole fascination of players holding out can end. So can the whole perception that unproven NFL rookies are greedy.
+ Former Bengals defensive tackle Shaun Smith is now a former Browns defensive tackle. On Saturday morning, Smith was released. Over a year ago, Smith flapped about the legendary Half Time fight that involved Chad Ochocinco during the 2005 Wild Card game. He said:
"He swung on Marvin. . . . [Johnson] shattered the training room glass. . . . He swung on Marvin [and] hit Marvin in the eye. . . . Then he tried to swing on wide receivers coach Hue Jackson, who's now in Baltimore."
The Bengals refused comment and Hue Jackson denies anything happened. Luckily the story died. And a year later, Smith is out of a job (for the time being). Chad Ochocinco is in the middle of an impressive character rebuilding period and Hue Jackson is the quarterbacks coach for the AFC runner up in Baltimore. Don't you love karma?
Paul Daugherty has a nice piece on Carson Palmer, looking into Palmer's optimism for this season and how the soon-to-be 30-year old quarterback has developed into a veteran.
Anthony Munoz's Hall of Fame speech, and Michael's, will be in Adam Schefter's new book The Class of Football: Words of Hard-Earned Wisdom from Legends of the Gridiron.