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First round quarterback rumors mean 1 of 2 things for the Bengals

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The Bengals are rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback with the 11th overall pick, at least that’s what they may want you to believe.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is more than the culmination of 254 dreams coming true in the span of three days — it’s the collision of 32 separate agendas intertwining with one another.

If you believe everything you read in the final days leading up to the draft, you’re bound to be disappointed. Franchises will attempt to “leak” information to the media in order for surrounding teams in the draft order to react proactively against them (trading up for a player right ahead of them). This manipulation in turn works in the original team’s best interest, leaving the player they “actually” wanted all along there for the taking.

This is the strategy that most teams use, and they may claim to do so even when they didn’t actually to generate positive PR. In regards to the Bengals specifically, any noise you may hear involving draft plans is likely manufactured by none other than the brass that makes up the front office at Paul Brown Stadium.

So when there’s talk about the Bengals actually considering taking a quarterback with the 11th overall pick, two likely realities become possible.

Timing is everything. In recent years Cincinnati has been on the record as open to target every position in the first round — except for quarterback. That plan of attack has seen Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson fall past the Bengals’ first round picks in the last two drafts. Not great.

Now, the head coach who made those comments in Marvin Lewis is gone, and so is the sentiment. When Lewis’ replacement Zac Taylor was asked if every position was on the table to be drafted in the first round, Taylor didn’t provide the same answer Lewis did.

Lewis didn’t want to start over with his third quarterback in his tenure, he wanted to finish with what he and the organization restarted with now eight years ago. And while that, again, proved to be bad process, it’s an understandable mindset.

A new head coach on the other hand brings new expectations. New eyes. New standards. There’s a reason why teams with newly hired head coaches typically take a quarterback fairly early in their first draft. And now, Andy Dalton is entering the second-to-last year on his contract, and has $0.00 of dead money attached to his name.

Then you look at the quarterbacks at the top of this class and the perception of them. Everyone and their mother believes Kyler Murray isn’t escaping the first few picks, but the other three prospects looking up at him on most big boards have less concrete fates.

Drew Lock, Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones will all be drafted sometime in the first round, but where? Acquiring first-round quarterbacks is almost always for the aggressive, not the passive, but that could change this month. Haskins’ camp has seen more optimistic days while Lock and Jones could come off the board anywhere in the first 32 picks. With the Bengals likely staying put at 11th overall, they could be the first team since 2013 to draft a first-round quarterback outside of the top three picks without trading up.

In addition to that, all three quarterbacks are great candidates to watch and learn behind a veteran for a season before having the torch passed to them. Regardless of when the Bengals draft a quarterback, Dalton will be the starter in 2019. The agenda will remain unspoiled.

The timing is right for the Bengals to be focusing on the days beyond Dalton, and that’s where the weight of this rumor being truthful resides. But there’s always the other side of the coin.

Dalton may have just two years left on his deal, but 2019 might just be the ultimate prove-it season for him. Owner Mike Brown has stated they will not negotiate an extension for him this offseason, and you’d have to think that the ever-growing quarterback market may put Dalton out of the Bengals’ price range if he hits free agency.

It would be unconventional for a team that just hired a mostly-new coaching staff and signed just one new starter in free agency, but the Bengals may still feel they’re going all-in to win as soon as possible. Would that involve using the 11th overall pick on a backup for Dalton? Odds point to no.

The possibility of the Bengals leaking this information to the league so a desperate team moves in front of them to draft a quarterback cannot be dismissed — it should actually be accepted as the most likely explanation. It’s entirely possible that the Bengals do have interest in taking a quarterback, but simply do not have interest in any of the quarterbacks available this year. Remember, timing is everything.

At the very least, it’s refreshing to approach the draft with the hope that a quarterback is Cincinnati’s first draft pick. Other needs such as linebacker and defensive line should obviously be addressed early, but neither position alters the game more than the one under center.

As far as rumors go, you may be free to get attached to this one more than others. Just don’t be the house on it.