Feb. 16, 2008

Free agency in the NFL is like doing business at a swap-meet, it’s risky. Teams have to control their impulses, but they also have to make quick decisions on who is worth taking a risk on.

Take Alge Crumpler as an example. Alge, 30, is a five-time pro-bowler and a pass-catching tight end. He’s a great character guy and he’s exactly the kind of guy Marvin likes; smart, professional and well behaved. Crumpler would be a key passing option on early downs, and double tight end sets with Reggie Kelly would be a welcomed wall for backs to run behind. The two played in Atlanta together, and Alge played for Hue Jackson, former Bengals coach and last season’s Falcons offensive coordinator.

As much sense as acquiring Crumpler seems to make - which sounds more convincing by the second - the Bengals have to pause a moment and consider all the angles before pouncing on him.

First off, the Bengals have never been the free agent kind of team. Bobby Williams, Antonio Chatman and Dexter Jackson aren’t the big names fans daydream over. There’s a lot of money sunk into the offensive line and wide receivers, and we’re trying to build talent on the defensive line, so bringing in a 30-year-old tight end who won’t come cheap might not make sense. The Bengals are in position to pick up a decent tight end in the second round this year, and we all know Marv would rather develop a player of his own rather than apply expensive band-aids onto problem areas.

Still, it would be nice to land just one big-name free-agent. To show the world that players do want to play here and do believe we can win. The world doesn’t respect the Bengals, free-agents included. I think we need to win consistently before we can attract high-caliber names. We’ll have to crawl before we can walk. In the era of franchise tags and salary caps, roster moves are sudden and often surprising. The draft is the best way to maintain success over long periods of time. The shelf-life of the NFL starter shrinks more every year, and there becomes less room on teams for damaged goods. Veterans with hefty contracts, get sore necks from looking over their shoulder all day. Had a knee injury? Over 30? And you’re a free-agent? I would recommend practicing with a hairbrush, to simulate your future sideline reporting career.

There will be moments this off-season where a player will get cut that we’ve all heard of, and in unison, we’ll beg Mike Brown to pay the man. We’ll present a compelling and well-thought-out reason why this player will finally win us a Super Bowl. That player will be rumored by local media, maybe even visit PBS. But then that player will likely sign with the “other” team in the hunt and the Bengals will be pawns in the game once again.

But I respect Marvin, and, as painful as it is to say, even Mike Brown for not coughing up too much dough on has-been big names like Warren Sapp. Ask Daniel Snyder how signing old legends to big contracts is working out in Washington. Old players fall apart fast, especially on new teams. To ask a veteran to start over in a new system, is like asking a senior-citizen to learn a new language. Many times, veteran players with one or two years on their contract become cheaper to cut.

Alge might not come here, but if he did, the league might raise an eyebrow.

  • Also released by the Falcons was former Bengals special-team ace Marcus Wilkins. I was sad to see him leave, and I expect him to return.

Mojokong - See? We can write Bengals pieces that don’t include you-know-who

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