Bengals release QB Doug Johnson, trade with Rams to get Carson Palmer's backup

By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer
September 1, 2007

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Carson Palmer had better stay healthy.

Unhappy with Doug Johnson's preseason play, the Cincinnati Bengals released their veteran backup quarterback Saturday and obtained Ryan Fitzpatrick from the St. Louis Rams for a conditional draft pick.

The move leaves the Bengals with little experience behind Palmer, who made the Pro Bowl last season after recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

Fitzpatrick, who started three games for the Rams as a rookie in 2005, was on his way to Cincinnati to start learning a new system. The other quarterback is rookie Jeff Rowe, a fifth-round draft pick from Nevada.

It's unusual for a team with playoff aspirations to have so little depth at the most important position. Coach Marvin Lewis was so unhappy with Johnson's play in the preseason that the Bengals made him one of their final cuts.

The 29-year-old Johnson was the third-string quarterback for most of last season and didn't get into a game. He moved up to No. 2 after Anthony Wright left as a free agent in the offseason, but lost his job by playing poorly in the preseason.

Johnson threw interceptions on the Bengals' first two possessions during a 14-6 loss to Indianapolis on Friday night. He completed 57 percent of his throws with two touchdowns and four interceptions in the preseason for a below-average passer rating of 60.1.

His struggles prompted the Bengals to get Fitzpatrick, who was the Rams' seventh-round draft pick out of Harvard in 2005.

"We've spoken to the Rams about Ryan a few different times, a few different possibilities over the last three years," Lewis said. "As I told him, we knew he was going to be a Bengal, it just took a little longer than we expected.

"He's played with really good composure. We liked him coming out of college. We like what we see."

Lewis wasn't sure whether Fitzpatrick or Rowe would be the No. 2 quarterback for the season opener on Monday, Sept. 10 against the Baltimore Ravens. They'll share time running the offense in practice.

"We're going to try to divide it up and see who will go into this week as the second quarterback," Lewis said.

The Bengals also released defensive tackle Kenderick Allen and linebacker Edgerton Hartwell, who were signed in the offseason to add depth to a defense that has been among the league's worst.

Running back Chris Perry, who broke his leg last November, was placed on the physically unable to perform list. Perry has to sit out the first six weeks of the season.

The Bengals also made moves involving two of their players who have faced criminal charges.

They waived second-year receiver Reggie McNeal, who played quarterback at Texas A&M and was learning a new position in Cincinnati. They kept second-year defensive end Frostee Rucker, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury during the preseason.

Rucker is appealing a proposed one-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy, the result of settling a domestic violence case in April. The third-round draft pick also missed last season because of a shoulder injury.

"We want to see more," Lewis said. "Certainly he's a guy that's got a lot to prove. He made it (the roster) in the end, but just because you start there doesn't mean you finish there -- or anybody, for that matter."

If the NFL sticks with its punishment, Rucker would be the third Bengal suspended for the opener, joining middle linebacker Odell Thurman and receiver Chris Henry. Thurman will sit out the season, while Henry could return at the halfway point.

Ten Bengals were charged with crimes during a 14-month span. Six of them remain on the roster.

The Bengals are likely to sign a free agent kicker as a precaution in the next few days. Shayne Graham bruised his right hip while helping with a tackle in a preseason game on Monday night, but could be back for the opener.

Aaron Elling was brought in to kick on Friday night, but tore a ligament in his knee while trying to make a tackle on a kickoff. Punter Kyle Larson made two extra points in his place.