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Thursday, July 28, 2011
Bengals drop the ball, lose CB Joseph

By James Walker

Johnathan Joseph
The Bengals had many opportunities to sign Johnathan Joseph before the lockout.
It's been an eventful day for the Cincinnati Bengals.

First, the team traded receiver Chad Ochocinco to the New England Patriots for two draft picks -- which was a wise move. But late Thursday, the Bengals also lost No. 1 cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who agreed to a five-year deal with the Houston Texans. That, folks, wasn't so wise.

For months we've predicted in the AFC North blog that the Bengals would lose Joseph. They had two chances to keep the up-and-coming corner -- last summer and in the winter before the lockout -- and Cincinnati kept dropping the ball by offering Joseph less than market value.

Joseph liked Cincinnati and gave the Bengals every chance to keep him. Cincinnati even had more than $35 million in cap space at its disposal due to mandatory spending in the new collective agreement.

But Joseph knew in the back of his mind that he would have no shortage of suitors once the lockout ended. Reportedly, the Texans, Bengals and Detroit Lions were all vying for his services, with the Texans eventually winning out. He joins a playoff contender with a big need at cornerback, and Joseph should do well there.

Meanwhile, the Bengals have to pick up the pieces in their secondary. For years I felt Joseph was the team's best defender and the player who made Cincinnati's defense go. He was excellent in coverage and one of the team's few defensive playmakers. Joseph also made fellow corner Leon Hall better, as well as the rest of the secondary.

The Bengals were counting on Adam Jones for insurance in case Joseph bolted in free agency. But Jones' legal woes puts that plan in jeopardy.

Cincinnati needs to start using that immense cap space ASAP, and it can start by patching the huge hole Joseph leaves behind.