A Hanging Chad: Life Without T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Ocho Cinco in Cincinnati

Bennett KaplanCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2009

After going 4-11-1, the Bengals are definitely looking to improve off of last season's results. Star quarterback Carson Palmer missed most of the season, and the offense stalled until establishing the running game in the final three games of the year.

Come next season, Palmer should be ready and healthy, and the Bengals will be looking to compete for a playoff spot. 

The main question surrounding the Bengals offseason was whether star wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco would stay in Cincinnati. T.J. is a free agent this offseason, and Ocho Cinco wouldn't mind being moved, though he is under contract until 2010. 

On a recent interview with ESPN radio, T.J. made it clear that he wanted to play on a team that is ready to contend for the playoffs, and it doesn't seem like he is too interested to stay in Cincinnati if things don't change. Houshmandzadeh has been near the top of the NFL in receptions over the past few years and would be a great addition to any team. There is no doubt he will receive big offers from many contending teams.

Ocho Cinco had his numbers decrease from '07 and wants out of Cincinnati. The Bengals could try to deal him because they no longer want to deal with him as a "distraction" to the team.

In the case that they both leave, who will fill their shoes? Many say the Bengals should draft Texas Tech stud receiver Michael Crabtree, but the real answer is already on the Bengals roster.

Speculation for the Bengals was that T.J. and Chad would be gone in the years to come, so they have started preparing for it, which could be like preparing for the worst.

In the 2008 draft, the Bengals drafted two wide receivers, Andre Caldwell out of Florida and Jerome Simpson out of Coastal Carolina University. Both had limited playing time in '08 but could see their playing time and stats increase with Palmer back at the helm. 

Also, the Bengals will have Chris Henry, who, with a full season, has the chance to put up huge numbers (if he can stay out of trouble). Glen Holt, who, for most of the season, was the Bengals' kickoff returner, will have a chance to compete for more time at wide receiver. The same goes for punt returner Antonio Chatman. 

The Bengals might be losing two of their biggest playmakers, but they are readily able to fill their shoes if need be.