NFL Nation: The Big Question AFC 70610

NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

After recent charges of allegedly punching a bar worker, will Cincinnati Bengals tailback Cedric Benson be suspended this season?

At the conclusion of last month's mandatory minicamp, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis praised his team for having a quality -- and quiet -- offseason.

Cedric Benson
John Sommers II/Getty ImagesThen Bengals were having a quiet offseason until Cedric Benson allegedly punched a bar employee.
Lewis lauded the strong participation and how there weren't the distractions many other teams faced around the NFL. In Cincinnati's division alone, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had to deal with Ben Roethlisberger's suspension, the Baltimore Ravens had the Jared Gaither saga, and there were several unhappy restricted free agents with the Cleveland Browns.

But last week that silence ended with charges against Benson, who allegedly punched a bar worker in Austin, Texas, following a barroom brawl. These charges bring into question whether Cincinnati's leading rusher will face a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Right now it's too early to provide a definitive answer, because the details are unclear. Benson was not charged until nearly a month after the incident.

That this isn't Benson's first run-in with law enforcement is probably the biggest factor working against him. Benson has had two previous incidents while in the NFL. Charges were cleared in both cases, but a third incident -- while Benson is on the league's "watch list" -- is never a good thing in the eyes of commissioner Roger Goodell.

Another issue: Why didn't Benson report the incident to the NFL and the Bengals in May when it first occurred? According to Benson's lawyer, David Cornwell (who also represents Roethlisberger), Benson called Lewis and the commissioner's office only after his release from jail on June 29.

Interestingly, Benson's representatives recently approached Cincinnati about a contract extension. The Bengals were open to the idea, in all likelihood without knowing about Benson's alleged altercation. Expect those talks to be put on ice until the legal system runs its course.

After getting through minicamp and organized team activities without incident, expect Benson's legal situation to be the biggest story facing the Bengals heading into training camp.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What will it take to pry Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson from the San Diego Chargers?

Vincent Jackson
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireVincent Jackson had 68 catches for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that the Chargers are not actively shopping Jackson and a trade of the receiver, who is expected to hold out for several weeks into the regular season in a contract dispute, is a long shot.

I agree. Trading Jackson won’t be easy for San Diego.

That’s because the Chargers are not just going to give him away. A trade is unlikely because his price tag would be high.

Jackson is becoming one of the NFL’s best receivers. But there is baggage involved. He is facing a NFL suspension after two drunken driving arrests and he will want a huge contract from any team that deals for him. Jackson probably will be looking for a contract slightly north of the five-year, $50 million deal Brandon Marshall got from Miami after he was traded from Denver in April.

In addition to Jackson's desire for a new deal, the cost to obtain him in a trade would be steep. That brings us back to Marshall. Denver received a second-round pick in 2010 and a second-round pick in 2011 from Miami for Marshall. The Chargers probably will be looking for something in that neighborhood for Jackson, who is a comparable player to Marshall.

Perhaps San Diego would take a second-rounder and a conditional mid-round pick. But if teams think San Diego will simply punt Jackson and his headaches away for a fourth- or fifth-round pick, they are sadly mistaken.

It will cost a lot to get Jackson. That’s why a trade will be difficult to pull off.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Which AFC South rookie will have the biggest impact?

There are plenty of opportunities for first-year players in the AFC South, and it makes sense that a high draft pick who fills a need and will get time on the field will be the choice here.

[+] EnlargeTyson Alualu
AP Photo/John RaouxTyson Alualu made a positive impression during Jacksonville's offseason workouts.
I expect Derrick Morgan to start, but the Titans' defensive end will need some time to find his rhythm. The Titans have some other rush options at end in William Hayes, Jacob Ford and even Dave Ball. In Indianapolis, first-round defensive end Jerry Hughes will work behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and I suspect he will be eased in as the third guy.

At this point, I’d say the highest impact guy in the division will be one of three candidates: Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson, Houston running back Ben Tate or Jacksonville’s Tyson Alualu.

Jackson will be relying on the pass rush and the play of the rest of the secondary to help him succeed, and Tate starts off behind Steve Slaton and Arian Foster and needs better blocking than the Texans were able to provide last season.

Alualu’s not as reliant on others and has no veteran in front of him, so he’s my choice.

He showed an explosive first step and good hand action in OTAs. The Jaguars are hell bent on better penetration that will get quarterbacks off their spot and off their timing.

If Alualu beats the guy in front of him or even makes him retreat a bit, he’ll have an impact from the start and all season.

Big Question: Top AFC East move?

July, 6, 2010
7/06/10
1:00
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What was the top offseason move in the AFC East?

We've hit a rare dead period in the NFL, when all the teams have sent their players home to enjoy the summer for a few weeks. Offseason programs are complete. Training camps will begin at the end of the month.

[+] EnlargeMarshall
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireBrandon Marshall's trade to Miami was one of the biggest offseason moves in the AFC East.
Perfect time to review all of the offseason moves. With activity slowed to a crawl, we can safely evaluate the ones that should have the most impact on the upcoming season.

I've taken five decisions from each AFC East club and ranked them based on how important they'll prove to be in 2010.

But this list merely is to provide a reminder of what has happened the past few months. I'd like to see your list in the comments section below. Nominate your favorite move, give me your top five or rank them all.

NOTE: I was remiss in leaving out one of the bigger moves, but thanks to some friendly reminders in the comments section, I have corrected the list by inserting the Dolphins' switch at defensive coordinator at No. 4.

1. Dolphins trade two second-round draft picks for receiver Brandon Marshall.

2. Jets trade a third-round pick for cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

3. Patriots use franchise tag to ensure nose tackle Vince Wilfork's return.

4. Dolphins fire defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and hire Mike Nolan.

5. Dolphins sign inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

6. Bills name Buddy Nix general manager and hire head coach Chan Gailey.

7. Jets trade a fifth-round pick for receiver Santonio Holmes.

8. Bills switch to 3-4 defense.

9. Jets pass on re-signing kicker Jay Feely and sign pass-rusher Jason Taylor.

10. Bills draft Clemson running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall.

11. Patriots clean house at tight end, sign Alge Crumpler, draft Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

12. Dolphins move Randy Starks from defensive end to nose tackle.

13. Patriots sign defensive end Gerard Warren.

14. Jets sign safety Brodney Pool, trade Kerry Rhodes.

15. Patriots release outside linebacker Adalius Thomas.

16. Dolphins release outside linebacker Joey Porter.

17. Bills sign defensive end Dwan Edwards.

18. Jets replace running back Thomas Jones with LaDainian Tomlinson.

19. Bills sign inside linebacker Andra Davis.

20. Patriots sign receiver Torry Holt.

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