The Changing Cincinnati Bengals: Who Dey Be in 2009

Dave WalkerCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2009

Today was a banner day for the Bengals football franchise. They have once again proven that they are not committed to putting a winning team on the field by placing a franchise tag on none other than their place kicker, Shayne Graham.

Granted, Graham has been a very consistent kicker over the last few years, and I will never blame him for us not making the NFL Playoffs in 2006. But, in my opinion, pro football is a business—your goals are to win games, bring in fans, sell merchandises and be profitable.

You do that by putting a quality product on the field. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, even though he seemed to not want to come back to Cincinnati, should have been given the franchise tag.

By using the tag on Graham, the Bengals have left a lot of other classes unanswered.

Who Will Be Catching Passes Next Season?

Earlier today, T.J. told ESPN's Bob Holtzman that he is "90 percent sure" he will be heading to free agency, and that he thinks Chad Ocho Cinco will also be sent packing.

The receiving corps will be led by Chris Henry, assuming he stays out of jail. Antonio Chatman, Jerome Simpson, and Andre Caldwell will round out the group.

It's a gang that doesn't really strike much fear into the secondary of many AFC teams. Crabtree is starting to look mighty appetizing.

Who Will Run the Ball?

Cedric Benson, yet another troubled NFL player, is sitting out there as a free agent. I think he deserves a chance. Sign him for a two-year, incentive-heavy contract, and see if he can be the guy that "Da Bears" thought he was.

If the Bengals neglect to ink him, Chris Perry will be fumbling and bumbling through this season, much like he did back in '08.

Who Will Block?

The offensive line is a big question mark. Do they draft one of the "Smiths" at offensive tackle? And can Stacy Andrews come back and be a solid tackle? Will they even sign him?

Who's Going to be Snapping the Ball to Palmer?

The smart money is that they will draft a center with their second-round pick. Alex Mack from Cal would be a perfect fit if he is still available.

That may be it for the questions.

The defensive side of the ball seems to be somewhat stable.

Geathers, Peko, and Odom shore up the D-line, but will they re-sign Jon Thornton, or do they draft/sign someone else?

At linebacker, Keith Rivers will be back, and hopefully he (and partners-in-crime Jeanty and Dhani Jones) will be looking to break Hines Ward's jaw.

Corners Leon Hall and JJ will anchor the secondary with Ndukwe, and hopefully Cincinnati re-signs Chris Crocker to fill the other safety spot.

The fighting "Who Deys?" may be looking at fans putting bags over the heads by season's end. On paper, especially in the smash-mouth AFC North, they look over-matched across the board.

Right now, no one knows who will block for Palmer, who he will hand off to, who will be catching passes, and what the hell the front office is doing with this franchise. An optimist might say,

"Well, maybe they will make a run at a big-name free agent, like an Albert Haynesworth."

But it's not going to happen. Mike Brown is the worst owner in football, especially now that Bidwell and the Cardinals made a Super Bowl.

It's hard to believe that it was just four years ago that the Bengals went 11-5, won the division, and might have beaten the eventual Super Bowl Champs, if it weren't for Palmer's knee injury.

A whiskey flask was given to me at the end of the '06 season for my birthday. They have been 11-20-1 since then, and unfortunately, so it seems the flask will be brought out on every given Sunday. Let me know what you think about this year's team.