<
>

Bengals mail Part 1: Will Cincy still draft for DL?

CINCINNATI -- As we mentioned Friday, there has been a strong emphasis placed this offseason on the Cincinnati Bengals fixing the problems on defense, namely the line.

Michael Johnson and Pat Sims were two linemen acquired through free agency who ought to help the issues the Bengals had with their pass-rush and rushing defense last year. Defensive tackle Devon Still also was re-signed, giving the unit a solid pool of depth that will be carved into during training camp.

How will all of the defensive-line additions affect the Bengals' draft plans? Will defensive linemen be out of the equation now? This is where we turn to start this week's Bengals mailbag:


@ColeyHarvey: Nice question to start us off, Tim. Pat Sims, of course, is a former Bengal who spent the first five years of his career in Cincinnati before playing the past two in Oakland. He just re-signed Thursday, becoming the third former Bengal this offseason to return for a second stint with the franchise. A noted run-stopper, Sims ought to give the Bengals a boost to their physicality up front. I wouldn't say his signing totally negates any plans the Bengals may have had to get a defensive tackle in this draft -- early or not -- but you have to take it as a sign that they likely will go elsewhere in the first three rounds. The interior d-line position wasn't too pressing of a need anyway. They came into this offseason needing an edge rusher, an edge blocker and a couple of receivers more than anything else. To me, Sims' signing makes it clear the Bengals would be content having the tackles on the roster now battle it out for roster spots in August. Then again, if a tackle like Florida State's Eddie Goldman is around when you make your first two picks, maybe you consider spending one on him. I dunno.


@ColeyHarvey: Anything is possible when it comes to the Bengals and their draft board. It depends on which players on their rankings, regardless of position, are on the board when their picks come around. While I'm not so sure they go with an interior defensive lineman early if at all (or until the time comes to sign college free agents, at least), I still wouldn't be surprised if some type of edge rusher gets drafted at some point to add to the pass-rush. That could be a defensive end, outside linebacker or a player who's a hybrid of the two. Will that player get drafted in the first two rounds? Again, it's hard to pin down the Bengals' plans. I would think not at this point, though. As I've been contending, I still get the impression an offensive tackle would make a good first-round pick. A receiver could come off the board in the second round, and perhaps the two third-round picks get split between that edge rusher and another receiver? Or maybe they get split between the edge rusher and a quarterback?


@ColeyHarvey: My read on the draft board is that there's probably a better chance La'el Collins will be around at No. 21 than some of the potential pass-rushers we've been discussing all offseason. While I'm a fan of Kentucky's Bud Dupree, I'm having a tough time believing he'll be available at 21. Nebraska's Randy Gregory might drop that far after his admission earlier this week to testing positive at the combine for marijuana, but it's unlikely. Someone in need of a pass-rusher (and there are plenty of those teams drafting ahead of the Bengals) may, and probably should, be OK with still taking him. So yes, I could see Collins being around around at 21. And yes, if he is, I could see the Bengals claiming the offensive tackle from LSU. After all, he'd be blocking for good friend Jeremy Hill next year and would be around fellow LSU products Andrew Whitworth and James Wright. If he isn't selected, it means perhaps the Bengals were more impressed by another offensive tackle or saw a receiver they couldn't pass on so early.


@ColeyHarvey. I do not see the Bengals re-signing Anthony Collins. I haven't foreseen that happening, and once the Bengals became legitimate players to land Michael Johnson a few weeks ago, I really didn't see it happening. At this point, the money isn't really there to sign him. Also, there isn't the same appetite to bring back a veteran who struggled mightily last year when you can start building up a younger player and preparing him for the day when Whitworth and/or Andre Smith are no longer wearing stripes. Anthony Collins might have made a lot of sense to re-sign this time last year, but at this stage this offseason, he simply doesn't.