The Bengals also have a franchise QB to rely on. All signs are pointing to Palmer being 100% now, so he should be absolutely fine throughout the whole spring-workout process. Cedric Benson had a very promising end to the season, and I'd love to see him back in stripes next season, as I would with WLB Brandon Johnson. The Bengals couldn't afford Housh's franchise tag which is a ridiculous total. I'm not sure if the Bengals are being cheap here, or if they're ready to make a legitimate push in free agency. They are the team right now with the 5th best cap situation, I believe, with right around 28$ mil to burn. The team still has a #1 in Chad and Andre Caldwell showed enough a year ago to step up into that #2 spot. Chris Henry will man the 3, Jerome Simpson the 4, perhaps Marcus Maxwell the 5 spot. The offensive line needs some work, not a complete re-building process (Whitworth, Williams, and Collins are all solid pieces), but perhaps a veteran and rookie Center, along with a rookie Tackle to man either the Left or maybe even just the Right side.
Mike Zimmer did big things with that defense, and with roughly 9 picks in the upcoming draft, coupled with the fact that the Bengals are nearly 28 million under the cap, I wouldn't be so quick to call the Bengals a team in recovery mode. They did win three straight to close the season and will carry a little of that momentum, as well as a much easier schedule into 2009-10.
Would it surprise me if the Bengals made the playoffs in 2009-10? Yes, it would. Is it impossible? Not by a long shot. This team has much more hope and winning pieces than say, the Atlanta Falcons or Miami Dolphins did a year ago at this time.
I am a Bengals fan, I recognize there is some bias there, but I want to point out that the team is still very young with plenty of options on offense and the league's most improved defense of 2008-09. Zimmer's second year schooling the Bengals in his system should be big, and I expect even more improvement from this young unit.
As for tagging Shayne Graham, it saves a lot of money and saves Cincinnati from having to go out and find a kicker that can match the most accurate Kicker in Bengals history.