Over a month ago, Mothership head writer Geoff Hobson speculated that Chad Ochocinco's future in Cincinnati will largely depend on A.J. Green's development. The reasoning was understandable, even though overall fan reaction would be a blizzard of cold reception followed by gusts of sighs and bad tasting curses. One one hand it's understandable; on the other hand, the Bengals would actually be smart holding onto Chad for that "just in case" argument for, I don't know, injuries or maybe the delayed adoption of an entirely new playbook by certain younger receivers.
Speculation is rampant on this but let's consider. Say that the Bengals decide to make Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson the leading candidates to start the season at wide receiver. And why wouldn't they? Starting the final three games last season, both receivers posted a combined 35 receptions for 547 yards, a 15.6 yard/reception average and three touchdowns. What's scary is how identical their production was over that span; Caldwell posted 270 yards receiving while Simpson hauled in 277 yards.
Yet there are also two considerations here. Inexperience and adaptability. Throughout his three seasons in Cincinnati, Simpson's playing time was limited until Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco suffered late-season injuries last year. And in Caldwell's case, his production drop in the second half of the 2009 season was significant enough that it may have raised flags about his long-term viability. At the very least it pushed an argument that Caldwell shouldn't be a slot receiver. Fortunately those fears generally became mute as Simpson and Caldwell exploded for an impressive conclusion last season, helping the Bengals win two of the team's final three games. Or in other words, double the team's entire win total through the first 13 games with Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.
Simpson and Caldwell's production, along with the expectation that the team will draft a quarterback, became the backbone arguments against drafting a wide receiver in the first round (rookie quarterbacks should be paired with veteran receivers -- or so they say). Arguments, we might add, made sense either way. Should the Bengals have drafted Patrick Peterson, who went fifth overall to the Arizona Cardinals, for a secondary that needed an injection of talent? At the same time, could we really depend on Simpson and Caldwell after a three-game sample of being the team's starting wide receivers? Cincinnati drafted A.J. Green anyway, allowing the team to exercise a proud proclamation that this could be the most exciting wide receiver roster in the NFL.
It also made Chad Ochocinco expendable.
But how expendable?
Like Hobson, according to sources, National Football Post's Dan Pompei writes that Chad's future with the Bengals will depend on how quickly A.J. Green is ready when the season starts.
The future of Chad Ochocinco remains very much up in the air. I hear the Bengals are keeping all options open with him, meaning he could remain with the team, he could be traded or he could even be cut. Some of it has nothing to do with Ochocinco. If rookie A.J. Green looks like he’s ready to play, and second year man Jordan Shipley looks like he’s ready to keep up, the Bengals will have little motivation to continue to put up with the flashy veteran. In that case, they likely would test the market and look to have their young receivers grow with their young quarterback Andy Dalton.
In our opinion, it could go either way. Provided the Bengals view 2011 as a rebuilding year, it would make sense for Dalton to grow with a younger core of wide receivers. But if the Bengals are actually expecting to challenge the Ravens and Steelers for the division, then the team may view Chad as a necessary component to make that happen.