Monday Morning Hangover: 4-11-1


In a classic Dead Cat Bounce, the Bengals popped the Kansas City Chiefs 16-6 Sunday to earn a winning record — 4-3-1 — over the second half of the season. That performance (as usual) likely ensures that head coach Marvin Lewis and his staff will return in 2009, despite the team’s overall 4-11-1 showing.

The same can probably not be said for Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards, who now awaits his fate in Kansas City. The Chiefs’ tepid showing against the Bengals may be the final straw for Edwards, who was already considered likely to follow GM Carl Peterson out the door. And in this morning’s heaping bowl of Schadenfreude Krispies, enjoy as Chiefs running back Larry Johnson goes all Ocho Cinco on his team. Mmmmm…yummy.

Among the most urgent issues on Cincinnati’s plate are the status of pending free agents T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Crocker, Cedric Benson and Shayne Graham. All but Crocker are legitimate candidates for the franchise tag. Houshmandzadeh has made it clear all year he doesn’t want to be tagged, and reiterated his objections after yesterday’s game. But Lewis called a report from’s Adam Schefter that the Bengals wouldn’t tag Houshmandzadeh “untrue,” and while a long-term deal would be best, there’s no reason to believe that Cincinnati won’t lower the franchise boom if T.J. and the team can’t come to terms. (And for the record, yes, shut up, T.J.)

Benson said that “the Bengals will be my first consideration” in free agency, a reward for their having enough faith in him to pluck him off the streets and give him a shot. But how much faith the Bengals have remains to be seen, and a resurgent Benson will almost certainly want to test free agency unless presented with a blockbuster offer from Cincinnati. The Bengals will have to decide whether he has shown enough to warrant extending such a deal. They could opt to tag Benson for a sort of full-year tryout, but Cedric’s attitude has gone south before and the tag certainly wouldn’t make him happy. Over at Football Outsiders, Bill Barnwell thinks Benson could put up 1,200 yards and 10 TDs — or more if he stays in Cincy, Carson Palmer returns and the Bengals rebuild the offensive line.

Graham, whom the team tried to extend last summer, is already the most highly compensated kicker in Bengals history, thanks to their having to match a premium restricted free agent offer made to him by Jacksonville several years ago. Whether they are prepared to give Graham, who ranks fourth all-time in NFL field goal accuracy, a raise over that isn’t known. The tag is an option here simply because the tag for kickers isn’t much (at least in NFL dollars).

Crocker, whom the Bengals pulled in after he was cut by Miami, has been a spark plug on an improving Bengals defense and reports last week said that the team and Crocker’s agent were already trading phone calls.

One issue that, thankfully, doesn’t appear to need attention is Carson Palmer, whose elbow appears to have healed just in time for the offseason. It’s good to know Carson’s tender joint won’t interfere with his ability to do those 12-oz. curls and bat around volleyballs on California beaches this offseason.

And yes, that was sarcasm.

Moving on…former Bengals defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who wasn’t good enough for Marvin, is apparently good enough to be on the short list of potential head coaches heading into the offseason…GM Phil Savage officially got the boot in Cleveland, with head coach Romeo Crennel widely expected to follow shortly…The Bengals did not beat a team with a winning record this year, though they tied one.