But re-signing Rudi Johnson, the productive and popular running back, would reduce that stigma. The vibe around Paul Brown Stadium late last week significantly shifted toward the likelihood of bringing Johnson back.
This looks more positive than I've seen in weeks for Rudi coming back.
I have mixed feelings about paying and keeping Rudi. The NFL has historically been a league where the best running backs are often on losing teams, from the days of OJ and the pitiful Bills to Billy Sims and Barry Sanders playing on all those losers in Detroit, to Corey Dillon, just to name a few. The thing is, the Bengals offense is not one dimensional, but they do need a workhorse for Bratkowski's scheme, it seems.
To me, it all comes down to can they afford him with the goal being building a Super Bowl team. If paying him hinders that goal, you have to let him walk and trust your coaches ability to recognize Chris Perry as the successor. So far, Marvin's high round draft picks are playing pretty well (see Palmer, Steinbach, Williams, Ratliff, Landon Johnson, Washington), so I'd say either way the Bengals will have a good running back next season.
I'd be more upset if they signed Rudi and let TJ walk, personally. TJ has made it much clearer than Rudi that he wants to be a Bengal, and I like the way he makes plays. Guys like him turn crappy throws by the QB into TDs and he makes defenders miss (instead of looking for a place to fall like that other wideout does).