There is no doubt that Terrell Owens will have a major impact on the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010. The question is: how? His production could make or break the Bengals during the regular season, however his impact will be felt much earlier than that. The Bengals must first make room for him on the 53-man roster.
This will be a difficult task as the Bengals were already poised for an intense position battle during training camp. At the moment, Cincinnati has 11 wide receivers on its roster, including Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson, Matt Jones, Dezmon Briscoe, Quan Cosby, Freddie Brown, and Maurice Purify.
The Bengals will be forced to cut this list almost in half by the start of the regular season. Assuming that they decide to carry the standard number of six receivers, that means five guys will be kicked to the curb.
The position battle only intensifies because of the number of guaranteed guys they currently have. Besides Ochocinco and T.O., the Bengals have three other apparent locks at wide receiver: Antonio Bryant, Andre Caldwell, and Jordan Shipley.
The Bengals just signed Antonio Bryant to a 4-year, $28 million deal, so cutting him would make no financial sense. Andre Caldwell, the team's number three receiver for most of last season, is still very young and is held in very high regards by the coaching staff, so he is pretty much assured of a spot. Finally, Jordan Shipley, a third-round selection in this year's draft, will be assured of a spot because of his draft status and special teams abilities.
That leaves six guys battling it out for likely one spot on the 53-man roster. Realistically, though, it will come down to four guys battling for the final spot. Freddie Brown and Maurice Purify, two guys who spent most of their time on the practice squad last season, will likely be pushed aside by this year's influx of talent fairly quickly.
The remaining four guys each bring something different to the table, so predicting which will one will make the cut is a difficult task.
Quan Cosby proved his worth on last year's squad as an exceptional special team player, but the additions of Jordan Shipley and Adam "Pacman" Jones may make his special teams abilities expendable. Matt Jones is an exceptional athlete and has been a productive player in the league before, but his off-the-field behavior and lack of conditioning may make him too much of a risk.
Dezmon Briscoe was a highly touted receiver coming out of college and many deemed him the steal of this past April's draft, but can the sixth rounder show enough to prove that he is more than a practice squad player? And finally, Jerome Simpson was a second round pick in 2008 with freakish athletic ability, but can he overcome his struggles to grasp the offense and finally live up to his potential?
There are a couple of possibilities that could make the Bengals' decision a little easier. The first of these is the idea that Cincinnati could opt to carry seven receivers instead of the traditional six. The problem is they would have to go lighter at another position, possibly linebacker or defensive back. If the Bengals decide to go this route, Quan Cosby will likely be the beneficiary as the extra receiver would likely have to fill a void left on special teams.
Finally, another possibility has arisen due to the speculation that Antonio Bryant is still having trouble with the knee injury he suffered while in Tampa Bay. If this is true, the Bengals could place Antonio Bryant on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which would sideline him for the first six weeks of the season. The move would allow the Bengals to carry an extra receiver and postpone a final decision until Bryant's return.
Whatever decisions lie ahead, one thing is certain: the Bengals will have a very talented receiving corps come September.