Bengals Mailbag Part 1: Burfict a hold out?

CINCINNATI -- Good Saturday morning and a nice welcome back to the weekly Cincinnati Bengals mailbag.

With training camp going on the last few weeks it was hard to get back into a rhythm getting these up every weekend, but with the season on the horizon, they're back now. Many thanks for your patience. Expect these to come each weekend between now and the end of the season.

To quickly set up this particular mailbag -- which, as you'll see Sunday morning, is separated into two parts -- let me encourage you to read this story. Hopefully it'll catch you up with where things stand involving linebacker Vontaze Burfict's reported contract extension. As coach Marvin Lewis said Friday, the deal has "not been signed off."

With that, away we go:

@ColeyHarvey: You're not the only person who has thought or typed those words the past few days, Battleship. But as much as I love a good conspiracy theory, I've got to sink this idea. There is no type of "hold out" going on with Burfict. If he were holding out, he simply would have avoided coming to the stadium when camp started a month ago, before his contract talks reportedly cooled. He certainly wouldn't be coming around the team right now if he's salty over the four-year, $20 million deal he reportedly received Wednesday. I will say you're right to point out how bizarre this entire situation has become. One day Burfict was ready to sign, the next he wasn't. Another day passes and he still isn't. I'm not completely positive about what's led to his suddenly cold feet, but I'm certain an illness isn't it. I'm even more certain he isn't holding out ... he already is under contract.

@ColeyHarvey: Once more, with feeling: there is no Burfict hold out in Cincinnati. I won't speak authoritatively to the structure of Burfict's deal because I'm not sure what all the specifics of it are or will be. I wouldn't be surprised if Pro Bowl provisions are going to be part of the new deal. That would be a standard incentive, particularly for a player who already has been to the all-star game. There could be issues with the way the guaranteed money was arranged. There could be issues with the payment schedule of his signing bonus money. It could be anything. Without being in the room with Burfict's representatives and Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, I can't fully say what's causing the issue. You are right to point to the deal itself, though. Something there isn't right.

@ColeyHarvey: Back to on-field matters. Will Clarke has, by most accounts, had a pretty decent preseason. He hasn't necessarily wowed any of the coaches, but he's been solid enough for a third-round player. He's played both defense and special teams, and he's been rather clean in both areas. He hasn't had the "wow" factor at end, but he also hasn't had any glaring mistakes, either. Anytime a rookie can simply do his job and not mess things up too much, you have to consider that a win. Aside from that, he's staring at a lot of bodies above him on the depth chart.

@ColeyHarvey: I definitely think Clarke will make the team, Scott. Again, he's a third-round guy who hasn't done anything glaringly bad or spectacularly great. They'll want to keep him around to keep coaching him up. Dontay Moch is an end who I have off my latest 53-man roster projection, for now, but he's an end whose services I believe the Bengals might need. He's got some hybrid stand-up defensive end, rushing outside linebacker ability. He could give the Bengals added versatility and a look they don't really have anywhere else on the defensive line. I still have him off the roster, but I don't think he's that far off.

@ColeyHarvey: Well, Layne, my friend, I could see Moch as a distinct possibility. He's one of those players with less than four years in the league who would have accrued enough time toward free agency to still be practice-squad eligible under the rule revisions announced this week. H-back Orson Charles or even safety Shawn Williams could fall under that category, too. I'd probably pick Williams and Moch out of those three. I just believe coaches have grown tired of the Charles experiment and are all-in on undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Hewitt there.

@ColeyHarvey: Snoops, take a look at this blog from Friday to get a good idea of what Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson think about Jeremy Hill. He hasn't yet played with the first-string offense in a game, but that's about to change. Lewis said Friday that he'd like to give Hill more playing time on Sunday when the Bengals visit the Cardinals. He contends he and his staff has been "excited" about having Hill in the fold, and want to give the second-round draft pick a little more run this week. In my book, he's still Cincinnati's No. 2 back.