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Bengals unlikely to put tag on Houshmandzadeh

Bengals free-agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh could be playing elsewhere next season. Indications are that Cincinnati won't be able to keep him off the open market, an NFL source said Thursday. Cincinnati, where Houshmandzadeh has spent his entire eight-year career, will try to sign him to a long-term deal before free agency starts Feb. 27. However, at this point, things do not appear promising.

Cincinnati could apply the franchise tag on Houshmandzadeh, 31, to restrict his ability to leave, but it does not appear they plan to do so. Franchising Houshmandzadeh would cost them $9.88 million against the 2009 salary cap. Houshmandzadeh also told the Dayton Daily News that he would boycott offseason workouts and be unhappy if the team designated him with the franchise tag.

If Houshmandzadeh hits the open market, he could become a priority for teams like Philadelphia, Chicago and Tennessee, all of which could use a wide receiver with his abilities. Houshmandzadeh has caught more than 90 passes in each of the past three seasons, including 92 last season. He's averaged 1,042 yards over the past three years and totaled 25 touchdowns.

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