The Bengals have a need in 2012 for a viable No. 2 receiving option opposite Pro Bowler A.J. Green. The Jerome Simpson saga continues with him recently pleading guilty to his marijuana charge, and though second-year man Armon Binns may challenge for the job, he's unproven and a veteran presence would be welcomed. Two players that are set to hit the open market on March 13th could fill the team's need at wide receiver.
It just so happens that these two wide receivers both come from the highly-productive New Orleans Saints offense. Marques Colston and Robert Meachem have yet to reach an agreement with the club and it's doubtful that they will return. Both players have been key contributors to the Saints' success over the past half-decade and both bring different benefits to their offenses, given their respective sizes and strengths. With their ability to sign with a different team next week, a debate is beginning to ensue amongst the NFL's inner circles as to who would be a better signing.
Colston has the size and productivity that NFL personnel men covet. The Saints don't have a true No. 1 wide receiver on their roster, but Colston is the closest that they have. According to Evan Silva at profootballtalk.com, he's averaged 75 catches, 1,040 yards and eight touchdowns per year over the past six seasons. Even with all of his innate receiving skills, teams have their concerns about Colston.
Colston does not create separation in the perimeter passing game and has spent much of his career playing slot receiver in the league’s most pass-heavy offense.
According to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, "some personnel men" around the NFL have reservations about Colston’s ability to stay so productive in another system. He has played in a dome, and for a team with an annually high-octane offense that racks up yards and points. Colston’s quarterback, Drew Brees, doesn’t miss. He’s led the league in completion rate in three consecutive seasons.
It's currently unclear whether Colston is seeking true No. 1 wide receiver money or not in fee agency, but many are saying that Meachem would be a better buy. Though Meachem has been far less productive than Colston in his Saints career, he has great speed and separation ability--traits that Colston doesn't appear to have. Meachem would likely command less money than Colston because of the difference in their production.
Durability is also being talked about with regards to these two. Silva notes that Colston has had "six known surgeries in his NFL career, five of which have been on his knees". That's not exactly the kind of track record of a player that a team will jump to give a long-term contract to. Still, Colston has played through the injuries and has still been productive and his toughness has to be considered.
Both players are worthy of being picked up and both come with risks. It will depend on what kind of receiver that a team wants and who fits their system. Both would likely be good fits with the Bengals, but the team will have to do their homework as they've been burned by free agent wide receivers in recent history. If the Bengals opt to pursue to fill the No. 2 wide receiver hole via free agency, they are likely to kick the tires on these two.