ESPN's AFC North blogger James Walker argues that the Bengals must draft a quarterback in either the first round or second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, in response to Carson Palmer's demand for a trade and threatening retirement. While it makes sense to have the insurance in case Palmer makes good on his threat to retire if he's not traded, the Bengals may be wiser to employ patience in the eventual search for Palmer's replacement.
The Bengals will have issues with the offensive line if they do not address the position. And we're not talking about filling gaps on the line with undrafted free agents, or the 5th or 6th players at their respective positions. Cincinnati needs to rebuild the offensive line with the best that there is to offer in this year's NFL Draft. Palmer, veteran free agent, draft quarterback. Success will be hard to come by with any quarterback, if the team doesn't march with the heart of a serious upgrade on the offensive line.
And the offensive line isn't the only spot on the roster that needs work. If Johnathan Joseph leaves, the Bengals need to figure the long-term plans with his replacement. If they allow Joseph to leave, then what are the odds that they work to keep Leon Hall in Cincinnati? You have to wonder. Furthermore, Adam Jones is anything of a certainty. After being four months removed from surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck, Jones only recently changed into a soft collar. How will he respond during the regular season? He says he'll be ready, but most injured players do during the offseason. Like Hall, Jones will be a free agent following the 2011 season.
Cedric Benson is a free agent -- and a certain Bengals reader just became giddy with joy (you know who you are). And while one could turn the argument of debating between signing Benson or not, the truth is this team will need a feature back. Since it seems that quality running backs can be found anywhere in the draft, from the first round to the undrafted free agents signings a few hours following the NFL Draft, running back probably won't usurp any position of need in the early rounds. Actually, pray mightily that the Bengals don't take a running back early in the 2011 NFL Draft. Example: Chris Perry (1st round of the 2004 NFL Draft) and Kenny Irons (2nd round of the 2007 NFL Draft). I don't think those players account towards Mike Browns' prized argument against increasing the scouting department.
Oh, and then there's safety. Chinedum Ndukwe, Roy Williams and Gibril Wilson will be free agents, leaving a 30-year old Chris Crocker, Reggie Nelson and Tom Nelson as your only signed safeties in 2011. They will have to draft someone and we hope it's someone with the potential to start without needing injuries on the depth chart.
In the end, does anyone actually think that Palmer will retire if he's not traded? I guess anything is possible. And you'd have to give credit to a man that sticks to his threats. If the Bengals concede to whatever Palmer's demands are, (monotone voice) like they did with Marvin Lewis, then Palmer could return and the need to find his replacement could be left for another day.
Either way, the Bengals definitely have needs right now and the quarterback position will eventually be one of them. Yet, it seems to us that the question isn't so much whether they should draft a quarterback high in the draft. It's whether there is a quarterback in the draft that you could build a franchise around?