ESPN's James Walker is shocked to the point that he's not really shocked -- I guess for the sake of being shocked without being shocked for the perception that something shocking was happening. Walker writes:
Are the Bengals, the reigning AFC North champions, really this desperate?
There is a reason all three players were out of football last season. This trio carries more baggage than LaGuardia Airport during the holidays.
Sure, Cincinnati needs depth at receiver and cornerback. But who knows if these players can step in and immediately contribute in 2010? Stallworth, "Pacman" Jones and Matt Jones haven't played a down in the NFL since 2008.
I don't know what the Bengals are thinking with these three players. Signing Terrell Owens would be much safer -- and that's saying something.
I actually understand where Walker, and like-minded people, are coming from. The Bengals, after all, are somewhat to blame for the perceptions that happened four years ago. Four years ago.
But consider the people they've taken a chance on. Cedric Benson, while not convicted, was arrested twice. Tank Johnson once had munitions factory in his basement. Bernard Scott had more baggage than Pacman Jones and Matt Jones combined. Have Scott, Benson or Tank caused any problems? Have they forced anyone to regret signing/drafting them? What about Larry Johnson? He and Scott helped pick up where Benson left off, each recording 100 yards rushing or more. At some point, each guy gave Bengals fans some level of "what the hell?" or "Mike Brown is cheap" reaction when they signed. Yet, after signing, they didn't cause any problems and contributed to the team.
Granted, one could argue that this isn't the same. Matt Jones, we can accept. Donte Stallworth and Pacman Jones, not so much.
Do the Bengals take chances on players? Yes. Does that mean that the Bengals are desperate? Or does it mean that they're smart? There's no doubt that these guys are talented. Could they be out of shape? Could they have lost their football edge after being unemployed for a year? Maybe. Or maybe Brown signs cheap talent, works them out, talks with them and learns that on the field, they'll improve the team. He learns that off the field, these guys realize their one chance to redeem themselves is now. If Brown, or Marvin Lewis, believe they'd be a detriment, then they won't sign them.
Either way, if the Bengals do sign any of these guys, that will only be the start of their redeeming journey. If they fail, the Bengals cut them, keep most of the money they signed for and move on as if nothing happened. If they succeed, then the Bengals could largely improve two spots on the roster that could use some help.
Are the Bengals desperate? No. Are they smart? Well, they've never been called that before. What they are doing is exploring every option they can. And I'm on board with that.