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Bengals Grant T.J. Houshmandzadeh's Wish, Franchise Kicker Instead

Feb 16, 2009 – 4:20 PM
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Bruce Ciskie

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As the Cincinnati Bengals begin to reconstruct their team after a disastrous season, it makes perfect sense that they would use the franchise player designation to keep a key player around. With wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and offensive lineman Stacy Andrews among the potential free agents, the Bengals certainly had options for their tag.

With that in mind, I'm sure no one is surprised that they decided to use it. What should surprise a few people is how the Bengals have decided to use it.

Instead of using the tag on Houshmandzadeh, a pretty talented receiver and stands to be in demand on the open market, the Bengals have tagged Shayne Graham. He's the kicker.

Huh? Why would you copy the Lions' offseason game plan?
"Shayne has consistently performed at a high level for us, and we expect that same performance in 2009 and hopefully beyond," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "We'll continue to speak with Shayne and his representatives about signing a longer-term deal."

Lewis added: "We will also continue to talk with several of our other pending free agents in an ongoing attempt to resign them. Some will want to test their value in the market, and we of course will look at the market for possible new players. But as I've said before, the best value for all sides tends to be when a team re-signs its own key free agents, and we will make every attempt to re-sign the players we consider most important for 2009."
I kind of understand the Lions' move, since there really isn't anyone on the roster worth using the tag on. Since Jason Hanson is 38, it's not like he is going to play forever, but kickers can go for a long time, especially when most of their work is done indoors.

Why not Houshmandzadeh? Paul Daugherty of The Cincinnati Enquirer takes a stab at it.
Houshmandzadeh has made it plain he doesn't want the Bengals' franchise tag and won't attend voluntary workouts if he gets it.

The $9.88 million tag fee for a one-year deal sounds like a lot of money, even in the Neverland of pro sports. It's not, if Houshmandzadeh gets hurt enough this year that he can't play anymore. He was there to witness franchise player Andrews blow out his knee at the end of last year. Financially, it was a potentially devastating injury. T.J. wants no part of that.
I'm not sure I buy it.

Even an unhappy franchise player is worth something on the trade market. Now, instead of getting even a decent draft pick for Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals will get nothing if (when?) he walks.

Maybe I'm underestimating the market for kickers, but I find it hard to believe the Bengals were under a high risk of losing Graham. Even if they did, it's not like the kicker is the most important player on the team. While wide receivers aren't, either, they are a lot more important than kickers.

On the bright side, when the Bengals score a touchdown off the Steelers' backups to close to within 38-16 next season, they know Graham will be around to nail that extra point.
Filed under: Sports