Ocho Thinkos


With just 23 days left before the 2009 NFL draft, one of the burning-est questions in Bengaldom is whether the team will trade the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson on or before April 25.

At this point, I would have to say that the answer is no.

Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but the silence on the Chad trade front has been deafening. Other teams have traded players, and rumors of offers declined — such as Cleveland reportedly rejecting a swap of the Giants’ second- and fifth-round picks for WR Braylon Edwards — have appeared regularly. But of Chad, nothing has emerged.

There was an early, unsourced report that Cincinnati was willing to move Ocho Cinco at a “friendlier price” than in 2008, when they turned down an offer of a first-round pick and a conditional third that could have escalated to a first, if Chad hit certain numbers, from the Washington Redskins. And of course there was the letter sent to all 32 teams by agent Drew Rosenhaus, in which he claimed to be seeking trades for several of his clients, including 85. Rosenhaus subsequently admitted he had no authority to seek trades for any of the players he listed.

And that’s pretty much been it. For my part, I do believe the Bengals are willing to trade Chad for less than they wanted last April, and that Chad knows this. It’s the simplest explanation for Chad’s good behavior (relatively speaking) this offseason. But it doesn’t look like anyone’s interested, at least not yet.

All this could change quickly on draft day, of course. The Bengals’ best chance to move Chad for picks this year could come at the bottom of the first round. Top prospects Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin will be long gone by the time WR-needy teams like the Eagles and Giants get a chance to pick, and the next tier of receivers, including Florida’s Percy Harvin and Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey are generally viewed as borderline first-rounders. In fact, NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan wrote last week that there will only be about 20 to 25 prospects with first-round grades once teams finish up their boards. In short, somewhere around Detroit’s second pick in the first round, the talent level is going to drop off, and any team looking to score an elite receiver could come calling for Chad.

But that, I think, is a best-case scenario. And whether the Bengals now consider a single late first round pick sufficient compensation for Chad is anyone’s guess. I would do the deal in a heartbeat, but I’m not Bullwinkle Brown.

In my estimation it’s more likely that, if an offer comes on draft day, it will be for a pick or package of picks outside the first round, which further reduces the probability of satisfying the front office’s demands, even if they are “friendlier.”

In the end, picks not this year but in 2010 could be the best option for all concerned. Teams are typically more willing to part with future picks than current ones, and making them conditional — for example, a second and fifth that could escalate to a first and third depending on Chad’s performance — could ease any concerns teams may have about his production dropoff, injuries and/or attitude issues of the last two years.

At first glance, picks in 2010 doesn’t seem an ideal solution, since the Bengals need help, and lots of it, right now. But as The Chickster rightly notes, Cincinnati already has more picks than roster spots this year. And one of the hallmarks of successful teams like New England is the way they routinely amass extra picks in future drafts. This year, the Patriots have five selections in the first three rounds, including a trio of second-round picks. I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded one of those this year for yet more additional picks next April. They Bengals always say that their strategy is to build through the draft, and if so this is the kind of thing they need to be doing on a regular basis.

Chad offers the Bengals an opportunity to get that process started.

Now, all they need is a trade partner…