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Bengals have needs beyond finding franchise QB in draft

CINCINNATI -- Andy Dalton. Blaine Gabbert. Christian Ponder. The Bengals have watched each of the quarterbacks throw in private workouts the last few weeks, imagining how each might fit into an offense that's currently in upheaval.

One of them might wind up in town this weekend, starting an extended stay.

The Bengals found themselves needing a quarterback when Carson Palmer decided after last season that he's had enough and won't be back. Younger brother Jordan Palmer is working out with Bengals receivers in California this week, assuming the role of No. 1 quarterback.

That could change.

Cincinnati isn't likely to take a quarterback with the fourth overall pick in the first round. The Bengals are more likely to try to add a playmaker to their defense or look for a receiver to replace Chad Ochocinco.

"There comes a great value with that pick," Marvin Lewis said on Monday, "and we want to make sure, in every pick that we make, that we get a player that meets that value and we feel real good about him in that particular slot."

The Bengals think a desirable quarterback could be left in the second round. They've been sizing them up since the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in January, shortly after Carson Palmer threatened to retire if he's not traded by a franchise that has two winning records in the last 20 years.

"I think it's public, common knowledge that we spent a lot of time with all of these guys, from the time we spent in Mobile all the way through this past weekend," Lewis said. "So it gives us a chance, I think, to know the guys. There is some depth.

"I think they all have some great attributes. I think the one thing that's common in all of them: They've been great leaders for their football team, and I think that's a good attribute to have as a quarterback coming into the National Football League."

No matter what happens, the Bengals will still have a problem at the most important position.

Carson Palmer's frustration with the franchise boiled over in January, when he asked for a trade. Owner Mike Brown has refused. The sides haven't talked since the owners locked out the players as part of their dispute over a collective bargaining agreement.

Jordan Palmer was promoted to No. 2 quarterback last season, but has little game experience. He has played in four games the past two seasons, going 10 of 15 for 59 yards with two interceptions. He has never started an NFL game.

The No. 3 quarterback is Dan LeFevour, who was a rookie from Central Michigan last season and never played in a game.

The Bengals are trying to change offenses under new coordinator Jay Gruden, but can't have contact with players. If they draft a quarterback, they won't be able to work with him, either, while the labor dispute lingers. When the dispute is settled, they could sign a veteran or try to trade for one, but he would arrive without experience in the system or familiarity with teammates.

It's not a good situation.

The other muddled matter involves the receivers. Terrell Owens led the team with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns before getting hurt. He had a one-year deal and won't be back -- his locker on Monday had been handed over to a safety.

Ochocinco still has a locker and a year left on his deal, but it's unclear if the Bengals want him back. He's spent the offseason playing soccer and traveling. He's not participating in the workouts in California with Jordan Palmer and the Bengals' receivers, tight ends and running backs.

Georgia's A.J. Green is ranked as one of the top college receivers of the last few years and is likely to be available at No. 4.

Lewis said the labor dispute has forced teams to focus more on the draft this time.

"I guess it probably speaks back to the NFL the way it used to be, when you filled your needs generally through the draft and then you had a little bit of player movement after that," he said. "So that's the way we'll go about it."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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