CB Joseph or RB Benson: Who Do The Bengals Franchise?

While the league and the union grapple over a new collective bargaining agreement for 2011 and beyond, the Bengals continue to move forward with various offseason dilemmas including replacing coaching and medical staff personnel, and figuring out what to do about Carson Palmer’s power play and Chad Ochocinco’s eccentricities.

Meanwhile, it turns out that despite the lack of a CBA, the team can designate a franchise player. The Patriots tagged OT Logan Mankins Monday, and the Eagles have already tagged Michael Vick. The Chargers tagged WR Vincent Jackson today, as did the Colts with Peyton Manning and the Ravens with DT Haloti Ngata.

So, in exploring who the Bengals might designate, there are only two players worthy of it: CB Johnathan Joseph and RB Cedric Benson. However, Hobson over at the official mouthpiece says it’s unlikely either of them will be tagged (at least in the short term):

“But no matter what happens, don’t look for the Bengals to use the franchise tag on either of their two key free agents, cornerback Johnathan Joseph or running back Cedric Benson. They want to sign both to long-term deals with sane salary cap hits. But not before the CBA is done because they want to make sure the deals fit whatever system they get.”

Frankly, it sounds like a solid strategy for the Bengals considering that neither player is irreplaceable. Tagging Vick was a no-brainer for the Eagles, no matter what becomes of a new CBA simply because he’s that valued in the league right now. Same with Manning. Mankins protects Tom Brady, so that one is also understandable. Ngata is a dominant defensive tackle, and those just don’t grow on trees. The Jackson tagging makes less sense to me, since he’s already expressed agitation with the team’s handling of his contracts and held out last year. He is a 6-foot, 5 inch receiver in his prime, however, so you can’t necessarily knock it.

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