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To sign Brandon Marshall or Terrell Owens, the Bengals will have to give up something

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With the Cincinnati Bengals coming off a season in which the passing game was, to say it lightly, sub par, speculation among Bengals fans is that Cincinnati will be active in free agency for a proven wide receiver and perhaps a draft pick in the first two rounds. This is, of course, speculation. Two names have surfaced as favorites. One, 37-year old free agent Terrell Owens. The other, 25-year old restricted free agent Brandon Marshall.

While Owens comes with a history of lockerroom disruptions displaying the height of selfishness, enough Bengals fans don't mind a look on a short-term incentive-laden contract. And with Chad Ochocinco selling Owens to Mike Brown through the media, the team could take a look. However, it's not as Madden-easy as that. After signing Laveranues Coles to a four-year $27.5 million contract with $9.75 million guaranteed, Cincinnati may shy away from signing another aging wide receiver. Furthermore, it's highly doubtful that the Bengals will sign Owen until they release Coles, who is owed $4.67 million in 2010 and $6.4 million in 2011 and 2012.

Chad did continue selling Owens to Geoff Hobson on Thursday:

“Laveranues is awesome. Dre, Jerome. I think another veteran presence, a guy that is going to be another target for Carson who is somewhat of that caliber; can we not say the extra step for going farther in the playoffs and the Super Bowl?” The Ocho asked. “Someone who knows how to win in the playoffs. I’m just saying. Why not? More excitement to the city. Another ego.”

Asked if Owens could be a team player, The Ocho said it wouldn’t be a problem.

“Damn right. He would have no choice,” he said. “He’d be with me. I got him. I got him. I’d put him under my wing. ‘Hey T, shut up.’ I’d put him in a head lock. He’s good. He’s awesome. Look at his numbers. Why not?”

Another popular theory is that the Bengals could make a play for Brandon Marshall, who is currently playing nice in Denver. To do that, the Bengals will have to sacrifice at least one draft pick since he's a restricted free agent, which depends on Denver's qualifying offer. If the Broncos tender Marshall to the highest allowed one-year contract for a restricted free agent, the Bengals will have to give up a first and third round pick. Second highest, a first round pick only. Third highest, a second round pick. Anything more than that it reverts to where the player was originally drafted. In Marshall's case, the Bengals would give up a fourth-round pick.

If I make a prediction, it's that Cincinnati won't give up a first round pick for Marshall, even though one could argue that no wide receiver in this year's NFL draft would come close to what Marshall could produce and Marshall is young enough to make a long-term impact. I can see the Bengals making a play on Owens, but I doubt they sign him. First, they'll have to dump Coles and then they'll have to debate whether risk and reward signing a guy like Owens; even though he could benefit the team's passing game more than what's on roster currently. Furthermore, that would prove that Caldwell and Simpson are no longer in their long-term visions at the rate they are performing.