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Reedy: Future May Be Bleak for Bengals

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So you think this year's bad? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it seems that the wreck that has been the 2010 season so far could be just be the beginning. According to Joe Reedy, things could get much, much worse.

Nothing is set in stone right now but it would probably be a somewhat safe assumption that Marvin Lewis will be interviewing for other jobs in different cities after this season. Now, nobody knows for sure if that is what will happen but, for arguments sake, let's pretend that it has already been decided. Who will be the new coach and where would he come from?

With no general manager and an owner who has liberally exercised his final say on who stays and who goes as far as assistants, that leaves a pretty shallow pool of who is out there. Also keep in mind that Lewis was the first coach since Forrest Gregg in 1979 who did not have any previous ties to the organization.

So the first major change could be the head coach. Would Mike Brown hire somebody from outside the franchise like he did when he hired Marvin Lewis or would he promote from within? Is it possible that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could be the next head coach of the Bengals? We'll have to wait and see.

Now that the season is coming to an end and a clear picture of the 2011 draft is forming, it is clear that the Bengals will have a top five draft pick. The main question is what positions will the Bengals attempt to fill with their first few draft selections and what position will be first?

Many fans, completely underwhelmed with Carson Palmer's performance, are screaming that a quarterback should be the first player drafted - possibly Andrew Luck or Jake Locker. Many fans would like to see the end of the Palmer era in Cincinnati and pass the quarterback torch on to a younger, newer face of the franchise. However, that is fairly unlikely considering that Palmer is under contract until 2014 and there may be more pressing concerns in the draft.

Running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Terrell Owens are on the last years of their contracts and the Bengals have a $6 million option on Chad Ochocinco. It is extremely likely that two of the three will play for new teams next year. Even though TO has delivered this season, it is likely that his tenure with the Bengals will be just for one season as planned and even though Benson carried the Bengals to the playoffs in 2009, the NFL is very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. His less than four yards/carry average in 2010 will likely be the catalyst for his 2011 job search. I'm not saying I agree with it... I'm just saying.

Cedric Benson is in the last year of his contract, Terrell Owens is on a one-year deal and the club holds a $6 million option on Chad Ochcinco next year. One or two could return but not all three.

Benson has 11 100-yard games since joining the team four games into the 2008 season, but has been frustrated over the direction of the offense this year. Owens has been one of the top receivers statistically in the AFC this year while Ochocinco has struggled most of the time for the third straight year.

So, considering the massive drop off in talent if, worse case scenario, Chad, TO and Benson all pack their bags after this season, do the Bengals still draft a quarterback or will they go for the other skill positions? Don't forget about the offensive line either.

And then, there's always defense. Can the Bengals afford to keep both Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph? Did they sign Adam Jones to a multi-year deal in preparation for one of those two leaving in 2011? What about the safety position? Finding defensive lineman that can pressure the quarterback is a must. Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers have been disappointing when they played. Will the Bengals try to find replacements for them?

Finding a pass rusher is an obvious need especially after the disappointing seasons with ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom. Geathers has just one sack while Odom was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances and hasn’t been healthy for most of the season.

Does the team decide to release one or both during the offseason? A lot depends on the play of Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap.

My head is starting to hurt.

Considering all of this, can the Bengals really afford to have just the six draft picks (they traded one pick to Jacksonville in the acquisition of Reggie Nelson)? Will six picks and the free agency market really help the Bengals if they lose their running back, top receivers and some of their best defensive players? Wouldn't it make more sense to trade away the highest draft pick for more picks?

Or would they do something that would make a lot of sense, try to trade out of their spot and accumulate draft picks? The Bengals had no significant losses last year in free agency, meaning they wouldn’t receive additional compensatory selections.

Considering everything that has gone wrong this season and looking at the amount of new talent that the Bengals may need next season to fill the holes created by talented players who will inevitably part ways with Cincinnati, the future looks fairly grim. It is very possible that next year could be a rebuilding year.

It should be fun to watch players that we don't usually see play very often in the last few games of the season as the Bengals attempt to find out what kind of talent they have guaranteed and under contract moving into the 2011 season. Get ready for some Jerome Simpson!