According to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, free agent Mario Manningham believes he is a No. 1 receiver and would like to be paid accordingly. Struggling his first two seasons in the NFL, Manningham finally emerged as a high quality wideout in 2010 catching 60 passes for 944 yards and 9 touchdowns, only to be supplanted on the depth chart the following year by Victor Cruz.
Manningham was quarterback Eli Manning's third option in 2011 but when it mattered, Manningham performed. In the postseason, Manningham caught a touchdown pass in the Wild Card game, Divisional game, and NFC Championship with his best game coming in Super Bowl XLVI as he caught five passes for 73 yards including the marquee sideline catch during the Giant's game winning drive.
Manningham was intruguing as a potential free agent acquisition--I wrote post-Super Bowl how he would fit perfectly with Cincinnati--but only as a No. 2 receiver where he benefits from single coverage and less attention. He hasn't been the go-to-guy since his Junior year at Michigan, and even then he was only good enough (mixed with character questions) to be taken in the third round. Manningham is a tremendous compliment, someone who goes well with a dominant No. 1 and a consistent slot receiver, and he proved that this past postseason. But has he shown anything that makes you want to say, "this guy can take the game over", like No. 1 receivers should be able to do? Larry Fitzgerald is that guy. Wes Welker is that guy. A.J. Green is that guy. Mario Manningham is not.
In the post I wrote advocating Manningham to the Bengals, I pointed out his affordability. After the Super Bowl his stock would rise too high for the Giants to keep him as their No. 3, but settle perfectly at the point where a team could grab him as their No. 2.
Well, one big catch and Mario's delusions of grandeur have demolished that idea.
Paying Manningham top receiver money would not only be a poor decision for Cincinnati, but it'd be a poor decision for any team. Only a team desperate for wideouts should consider it--Chicago, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Denver, St. Louis--but even then, why not pay slightly more to get a proven stud like Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston?
Free agency remains a viable option to address wide receiver needs, and should Cincinnati elect to go that route, there will be plenty of quality players to pursue. But if there is one thing the Bengals do not need, it is a No. 1 receiver. That position will be taken for awhile.