- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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He did it again the other night and this one was grander than the rest. On a national television talk show, Johnson envisioned himself playing with the Dallas Cowboys. Picture Johnson and Terrell Owens together, catching passes from Tony Romo with Jessica Simpson in the stands. Picture Jerry Jones presiding over a circus bigger than the one he had in the days of Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer.
Now, picture the Bengals. They have a wide receiver, who despite all his quirks, is one of the most talented players in the game. They have him under contract. The Bengals, who have put up with Johnson's antics throughout his career, have been saying he's not going anywhere.
But this time could be different. Johnson keeps trying to lobby his way out of Cincinnati and history has shown it's tough to silence him. Despite their public stance, you have to wonder if Bengals owner Mike Brown and coach Marvin Lewis might start thinking enough is enough.
With each time Johnson opens his mouth, the potential for an ugly breakup becomes stronger. Controversy seems to follow Johnson (largely because he creates it). But this isn't the only show worth watching at a time when free agency has become boring and the draft is still more than a month away.
A look at five other controversies that are starting to brew or could erupt in the next few months:
In January, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis had asked coach Lane Kiffin to resign. That hasn't happened, but it's obvious something ugly is going on between Kiffin and Davis. Kiffin wasn't wearing Raiders clothing at the Senior Bowl or scouting combine.
Davis has been incredibly aggressive in free agency. All his big moves (except the re-signing of running back Justin Fargas and addition of receiver Javon Walker) have been on defense, including the recently completed trade for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Kiffin, an offensive-minded coach, has been involved in all the signings, but rumors persist of a rift between the coach and owner.
This situation is looking like a standoff and logic says standoffs have to come to an end. Then again, Davis is at the center of this, so logic doesn't count.
What about us?
After the New York Jets splurged on a bunch of new players (Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Kris Jenkins and Calvin Pace), some of the old ones started grumbling. Heading into a crucial year for coach Eric Mangini, the Jets need harmony, not a bunch of veterans wondering aloud about contract extensions.
There's talk that the Jets are working on a new deal for WR Laveranues Coles, but he was a no-show for the start of offseason workouts. Coles, a team captain, is one of the more respected voices in the locker room. The Jets need to keep him happy.
But they need to do more than that to prevent a potential mutiny. Tight end Chris Baker has expressed unhappiness with his current contract and Kerry Rhodes might be the most underpaid safety in the league. If the tension isn't erased, the grumbling will get louder.
Montana vs. Young it's not
If you thought the quarterback controversy in San Francisco was entertaining last year, it's only going to get better. Coach Mike Nolan has made it clear that Shaun Hill, who seems to have taken on legendary status after a few decent starts late last season, will compete with former No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith for the starting quarterback job.
Hill, who wasn't even drafted and spent most of his career in NFL Europe and on the Minnesota bench, has been given a new contract. Maybe this is Nolan's way of trying to challenge Smith to step up. But Nolan and Smith sniped at each other last season about the severity of the quarterback's shoulder injury.
Maybe Smith can get back into good graces and succeed under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. But, keep in mind, Martz had a lot of success with another former NFL Europe quarterback (Kurt Warner) when he was in St. Louis.
Dancing with the fish?
Jason Taylor, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2006, has bristled at rumors the Miami Dolphins might try to trade him. Taylor clearly is the best player on a roster that still includes a lot of players from last season's 1-15 team and his presence certainly could ease the rebuilding process.
But Bill Parcells, who now is running the show in Miami, showed nothing is sacred when he cut iconic linebacker Zach Thomas. Parcells isn't likely to be watching as Taylor competes in "Dancing With the Stars." But Parcells, who has a shot at Virginia pass-rusher Chris Long with the first pick in April's draft, might be wondering how many draft picks he can get for Taylor.
Out on an island
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen clearly backed coach Mike Shanahan when general manager Ted Sundquist was fired. Bowlen talked about a "dysfunctional'' situation and put all the power in Shanahan's hands. But Shanahan already had all the power and that wasn't good enough to get the Broncos to the playoffs last season.
Now, Shanahan has lost his insulation. If the Broncos struggle again, Shanahan will be the only one to point at.
Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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