On the other hand, it’s hard to read Marvin Lewis’ recent praise for Cam Newton. Does Lewis really want Newton? Or, is he trying to help sell him to the Panthers to give the Bengals a better shot at drafting Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert? Either way, selecting a QB at #4 would make trading Palmer that much more important. It would be hard to imagine Mike Brown putting himself in a situation where he’d have to pay the salaries of two 1st Round franchise QBs. That would almost certainly inhibit the Bengals’ ability to do anything to address their needs through free agency. It might even stop them from resigning their own key free agents in Jonathon Joseph and Cedric Benson. Plus, the extra 2nd round pick that they should get for Palmer could be used on a wide receiver like Miami’s Leonard Hankerson or Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin. They could still use the other 2nd round pick to help their defense.
With a rookie quarterback, it might be hard to imagine the Bengals seriously competing for their second AFC North title in three years regardless of the number of picks they take in this year’s draft. But simply allowing Palmer to retire for the sake of Mike Brown standing on principal would be a wasted opportunity. Though Palmer’s performance over the past 3-4 years has not matched his performance of 2005, he has had to play behind a less than stellar offensive line and in an all too predictable offensive scheme. Only someone of Palmer’s caliber could make Bratkowski’s system work . . . sometimes. It worked in 2005 because the Bengals had an outstanding offensive line and Palmer was at full health. Plus, he had Chad Johnson (that’s Chad Ochocinco, only six years younger) to throw to. The bottom line is that Palmer still has value, and the Bengals can ill-afford not cashing in on that value to improve the team’s competitiveness.
Of course, Mike Brown is still Mike Brown. As bad as the team was in the 1990s, Mike Brown still made money. And that’s the other bottom line that, as Bengals fans know, trumps their desire for a winning team.