The Bengals are evaluating players at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis under the premise that QB Carson Palmer will not return, making it a possibility they spend their fourth overall pick on a signalcaller.
New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told Bengals.com that the options are still open for any position, and added, "We might not take a quarterback in the first five rounds, who knows?" But with Palmer's trade request, the story says that head coach Marvin Lewis is "proceeding as if Palmer isn't going to be (in Cincinnati)."
Team president Mike Brown is reportedly sitting in on some of the interviews with prospects, as the Bengals are one of the teams scheduled to meet with top QB prospects.
Gruden mentioned how his brother, Jon, never took a quarterback before the third round in Tampa Bay.
"Get a Matt Ryan and an Aaron Rodgers and build around him. Now those teams don't have to draft that," he said. "They can go linemen and receivers and get stronger and stronger."
With a young quarterback, Gruden also mentioned the importance of a workhorse back, like Cedric Benson, to help a young quarterback. Benson is set to be a free agent and Gruden admitted that Benson likely will go where the money is despite the fact that the Texas product had a great meeting with Gruden about his role with Cincy if he stays.
Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert and Auburn QB Cam Newton are considered to be the top two quarterback prospects in April's draft.
The way we see it
Before Palmer's trade demands, we wouldn't have put the Bengals in the "need a quarterback" category. But with the fourth overall pick, they are in prime position to take Gabbert or Newton. But Gruden was sure to keep open the possibility of any position being addressed. PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki and other draft writers have projected the Bengals taking Georgia WR A.J. Green with their top pick.