Cincinnati Bengals State of the Franchise: An in Depth Look at the Options at WR

Matt GrayContributor IApril 5, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Andre Caldwell #87 of Cincinnati Bengals goes up for a catch against the San Diego Chargers during the NFL game on December 20, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

In 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Terrell Owens, resulting in a media fanfare not even Chad Ochocinco could draw that unsurprisingly lasted little more than five weeks into the season when people realized that all the talk and all the 'hype' were simply that.

The addition of Owens (and Antonio Bryant) pushed the Bengals struggling youngsters Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson to the back of the line where they would remain until Owens injured his knee in a win against the Cleveland Browns and Ochocinco's bone spurs became so bad that he couldn't play.

What followed was interesting, as the Bengals played a noticeably better game against the San Diego Chargers, with the general consensus being that the whole team clicked better once the ego's were out the door.

Simpson had six receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns, going on to have a productive end to the season. Caldwell, while unable to grab a TD, posted 270 yards in the final three games with a lowest output of 87 yards. Carson Palmer even looked like he was having, dare I say

If we go back to just prior to the season's culmination, a lot of Bengals fans were clamoring for the heads of Marvin Lewis, Ocho and T.O. The main arguments centered around how good the youngsters on the team looked and how much better Carson would play with receivers who are willing to listen and work their butts off.

Which brings us to today. Lewis is still the coach, Carson wants out, T.O. is most likely gone and Ocho (if he isn't traded this year), Caldwell and Simpson's contracts are all up in a years time. Naturally many "experts" are pointing to the Bengals taking a receiver in the upcoming draft, with many targets firmly centered on Georgia's A.J. Green.

While this solves one problem, filling the void Ocho will inevitably leave, it means that the Bengals use up an extremely valuable No. 4 pick that could be used to fix other holes that are more urgent.

It seems like most people have completely forgotten about those last few weeks of the season where hope for next season was surrounding Gresham, Shipley, Caldwell and Simpson as the next generation.

Caldwell believes he is poised to have a breakout year. He said, "Let everybody know up there, I'm ready. I'm ready to come in and have my best year. I trained like I was going to the combine all over again and I'm going to keep going."

While I have spoken many times before about my desire to give Simpson and Caldwell a chance this season and leaving a first-round receiver until next year, there are issues of depth beyond Caldwell and Simpson that the Bengals really do need to think about.

While A.J. Green would help this situation, one man doesn't solve that problem, which is why I think this problem can be better addressed through later round draft picks than first and free agency (if it ever happens). Also let's not forget Quan Cosby whom the Bengals have exclusive rights over who has proved valuable.

There is also a point to make for the Bengals changes on offense to begin this year. With Jay Gruden implementing a run first, smash-mouth West Coast system, the need to take a receiver so high is somewhat degraded.

I'm not saying that A.J. Green wouldn't fit in this system, I'm sure he would excel, but if he's going to excel we need the right guy under center throwing him the ball. There's also the age-old belief that games are won in the trenches, and the Bengals certainly need some help from a defensive lineman right about now in order to help the defense find its identity and add some firepower, myself being a big fan of Von Miller.

Whether or not Caldwell and Simpson get re-signed by the Bengals is something that may not be addressed until next year as the Bengals have a number of other high priority free agents to consider, including the likes of Cedric Benson and Johnathan Joseph.

What I would suggest is addressing a greater need with the No. 4 pick and giving the young guns some playing time to showcase their talents or lack of. There was belief at the close of the season, where has it all gone?