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Sunday, February 19, 2012
AFC North weekend mailbag

By Jamison Hensley

There's no football games on this Sunday, but there's always mail to be opened ...

Charlie from Centerville, Ohio, writes: How interested are the Bengals in Michael Bush? I think he would fit in their lineup really nice.

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters: The only way the Bengals or any other team can bid on Bush in free agency is if the Oakland Raiders decide not to put the franchise tag on him. It was considered a good bet that the Raiders were going to do that based on Darren McFadden's injury history. Now there's reports suggesting that Oakland won't use the tag, which would allow Bush to hit the market.

There will be several teams interested in Bush, but the Bengals have more salary cap room ($60 million) than most teams. This would be a homecoming of sorts for Bush, who grew up down the road in Louisville. His power running style would compliment the quicker Bernard Scott. Signing a runner like Bush doesn't preclude the Bengals from drafting another running back as well.


Michael from Cleveland writes: If the Browns bring in Matt Flynn, does that mean Colt McCoy won't get the chance to compete for the starting job?

Jamison Hensley: Assuming the Browns get Flynn, the job would be given to him, even though Flynn has only two career starts and the Browns previously said McCoy would have be given a chance to battle for the job. The biggest reason why the Browns would go with Flynn is the financial commitment that comes with signing him. While Flynn remains an unknown in terms of being a full-time starter, there will be teams fighting for him, which will drive up the price. Flynn should end up with a contract in the same neighborhood as the one signed by Arizona's Kevin Kolb ($63 million over five years). You don't give that type of money to a quarterback without handing him the starting job, too.


Drew from Baltimore writes: The Ravens have a ridiculous amount of free agents this offseason. Obviously, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice have to stay. Would you agree that signing guard Ben Grubbs and linebacker Jameel McClain both need to become necessities as well? Don't they seem more important than going after a receiver or drafting their replacements?

Jamison Hensley: I believe the Ravens will make adding a wide receiver a bigger priority than Grubbs and McClain. Grubbs certainly proved his importance when the offensive line struggled during the six games he was sidelined with a toe injury. But his chances of staying with the Ravens was significantly reduced when Baltimore invested a $32.5 million contract in the other starting guard, Marshal Yanda, last season.

As far as McClain, the Ravens' track record says he will go elsewhere and will make a lot of money in the process. From Ed Hartwell to Bart Scott, inside linebackers who have started next to Ray Lewis have garnered a lot of interest from other teams. McClain is expected to be the next one to do so. It won't be easy to replace Grubbs and McClain, but both will probably receive contracts that the Ravens won't be able to match.


Ian from Charlotte, N.C., writes: With Casey Hampton's future uncertain, there are early rumblings of Ziggy Hood sliding to nose tackle. Does Hood have the tools to be a 3-4 tackle in the NFL? He's listed at 300 pounds which seems a little light to be absorbing double teams like Hampton did. What's your take?

Jamison Hensley: Moving Hood to nose tackle wouldn't be the first choice. That's why you're seeing Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe linked to the Steelers in the first round. But I don't see Hood playing totally out of his comfort zone at nose tackle. He doesn't have the size of the 325-pound Hampton but Hood is about the same size as longtime backup nose tackle Chris Hoke (305 pounds). Hood took snaps at that spot last season in obvious passing situations, and I saw him handle double teams when he lined up at defensive end last year.

The one reason why you don't want to move Hood is because he's improved so much the past two seasons. But this looks like the best option at this point. The Steelers can't count on Hampton, who had ACL surgery at the end of January, and they have to get first-round defensive end Cameron Heyward on the field more.


Justin from Syracuse, N.Y., writes: What do you think the chances are that the Bengals will trade up to get Alabama running back Trent Richardson?

Jamison Hensley: The Bengals need a running back, and Richardson is the best one in the draft. He is one of the best athletes at any position in this draft class, too. But it would be a mistake for the Bengals to trade up to get him. It probably would take both of their first-round picks in this year's draft to do so, and it's not worth the cost.

Even if Richardson doesn't fall to the Bengals, they can use the first-round picks on a guard and cornerback. Two impact players are more valuable than a very good running back, who might only give you five outstanding seasons. Cincinnati can address running back in free agency with all of that salary-cap room and can take one in the second or third rounds.


Brad from Atlanta writes: You raised the possibility of Matt Flynn becoming this year's Kevin Kolb. Can you post the stats of Kolb at Philadelphia and Flynn at Green Bay? Did Kolb ever have the kind of performances Flynn had against New England or Detroit?

Jamison Hensley: Like Flynn, there was a small body of work with Kolb, who started just seven games in four seasons with the Eagles. He generated buzz in 2009, when he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in his first two starts. He was also outstanding filling in for an injured Michael Vick in October 2010, completing 23 of 29 passes for 326 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a victory over Atlanta.

Flynn has only two starts but both have been spectacular. He totaled 731 yards passing, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Until Flynn can duplicate his success as a full-time starter, there are going to be concerns that he'll disappoint like Kolb, who went 2-6 in his first season with Arizona last season.