As we get this Wednesday started, here are four recent Cincinnati Bengals storylines (plus one personal plug) to ponder. Let's start it off by chatting about draft-hopeful cornerbacks and their visits to Paul Brown Stadium:
1. Visiting corners. Reports have trickled out in the last two weeks linking the Bengals to visits with a host of soon-to-be-drafted players. Chief among them seem to be cornerbacks, namely the types of cornerbacks who could still be available when the Bengals make their first-round pick at 24th overall. TCU's Jason Verrett, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller are most recognized corners who have reportedly come to Cincinnati to chat with coaches and ownership, and to perform in controlled workouts. So what do the visits mean? They are clear signs the Bengals are at least interested in those players and may be flirting with the idea of taking one of them with the first-round pick. They also are signs that Cincinnati's staff believes their "best-available" philosophy has to include cornerbacks this season since there are so many good ones for the picking.
2. Who should the Bengals pick? That's the question that all draftniks who have a radio show, blog, Twitter account, pen and pad or voice wants to answer. The suggestions for the first-round selection have spanned quite the gamut, too. Some are still contending that the defensive end position is a spot the Bengals might target and that Missouri's Kony Ealy ought to be the 24th pick. Oregon State end Scott Crichton has gone on a few mock drafts there, too. But by and large, mocks have sent one of the aforementioned corners to Cincinnati. If it isn't one of those three, then it's been Ohio State's Bradley Roby. At this point, I have no clue who the Bengals are going to pick, but I'm leaning toward seeing them take a cornerback with that late-round selection. If I had to pick who among that cornerback quartet will end up being the best pick and having a career that best suits the Bengals, I personally would pick Verrett. His size (5-foot-9, 189 pounds) is about the only true knock he has, but his speed, athleticism, strong performance at the NFL combine in February and ability to play both in the slot and out of it make him attractive to me. His speed could make him a good blitz option, too. It seems that new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther would like to have more blitzes from the secondary as part of his package. Naturally, Verrett wouldn't be starting in the slot for the next two years with Leon Hall still under contract through 2015, but he could give another option there in case of injury. The Bengals haven't really had a good backup slot corner recently, forcing them to get creative with their depth chart when Hall went down with his last two season-ending injuries.
3. Small spenders. It's not a surprise, but as ESPN.com Browns reporter Pat McManamon noted Tuesday, the Bengals are among the league's cheapest teams this offseason in terms of paying guaranteed money. The Bengals have so far spent just $7.3 million in guaranteed money on players either signed or re-signed in free agency. That's the fourth-lowest amount in the league. The bulk of the money they have spent has gone to defensive tackle Domata Peko, who was extended through 2017. He's set to receive $4.4 million in guaranteed money this year as part of a signing bonus. The Browns and Ravens are among the league's biggest free-agent spenders, McManamon's story noted. The reason it isn't surprising that the Bengals haven't paid much to free agents this year is because big spending through that avenue just isn't part of their philosophy. The only times they really open up the checkbook is when trying to keep certain stars. Just last offseason, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap signed massive deals that will pay them $55 million and $40 million, respectively, across five and six years. Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Vontaze Burfict appear to be next in line to receive big contract boosts, too. Aside from them, though, don't expect to see much coin doled out. The Bengals contend that aside from the big stars, the money just isn't there for everyone.
4. Playing with numbers. We took a look at a few other numbers on the Bengals blog Tuesday. Specifically, we updated you on Cincinnati's current salary-cap numbers. The Bengals still have a lot to spend, but it's clear they're holding onto some for the draft and some for one of the three looming free agents that are still on their horizon (Dalton, Green, Burfict). We also examined where the Bengals stood in relation to pay compared to players from other sports teams across the globe. Like all NFL players, the Bengals don't get compensated as well as some of their baseball, basketball and soccer counterparts. But their $2.1 million per year, per player average is competitive in the NFL. It ranks 11th among the 32 teams.
5. A thank you. Finally, a quick thanks to everyone who caught the debut of "NFL Nation TV" on Tuesday. If you missed it, you can check out the first installment of our weekly football show here. Yours truly will join Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and another NFL Nation team reporter each week to discuss the latest headlines in a fun and interactive chat with you, our loyal readers. So come back next Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET for Episode 2.