Signed For 2013: A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Ryan Whalen, Justin Hilton, Taveon Rogers, Dane Sanzenbacher
Free Agents: Brandon Tate, Andrew Hawkins (ER-FA)
With how the Cincinnati Bengals used him late during the season, A.J. Green should be described as a curse. From week 13-17, Green generated only one reception of over 20 yards and against the Houston Texans, was evicted entirely from the team's (totally didn't work) game plan in the first half. Eventually defenses canceled out Green's threat late in the season, largely by generating an intense pass rush that forced Dalton to scramble or check down to a dump-off receiver.
Why a curse? Frankly he's the most talented player on the team. You know that. We know that. The team knows that. But so does the opposing defense. By eliminating Green, opposing defenses shoved Cincinnati's passing offense into a tank deeper than mediocrity. But it was more than that. It was the threat of someone else emerging.
Cincinnati's passing offense began breaking down after Mohamed Sanu's injury, who had generated four touchdowns in three straight, right about the time Cincinnati began to emerge after a 3-5 start. Honestly when the question is asked, my pre "are you sure that's the right answer" thought is, give Sanu a full season before going into Madden-mode for the player with the top overall rating in free agency.
If you want to replace Sanu's name with Jones, in terms of potential on paper, by all means. Feel like they're interchangeable? Apply that too, young fellow. However it's a little hard not to feel slightly disappointed with Andrew Hawkins, who had exploded at one point with an on-pace number early in 2012 of over 800 yards receiving. Yet he went the Andre Caldwell route, failing to generate 50 yards receiving in 11 straight games to end the regular season. Now ask yourself, "long-term solution"? Or is "long-term solution" the league's newest myth?
Free Agency: Since the peak of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, every successive year has encapsulate the "big craze", gold-mining an untapped vein of No. 2 wide receivers through free agency. Last year many went down the restricted free agency route, looking to give Pittsburgh the team's No. 21 pick as compensation for wide receiver Mike Wallace. [Note: The Bengals had two first-round picks last year but the No. 21 pick was Cincinnati's original pick, therefore the one that would have been used. Instead the Bengals traded it to No. 27 and drafted guard Kevin Zeitler. Funny how that works.]
Wallace will resurface in conversation this year, only as an unrestricted free agent. With half a percent of Niun's (a South Pacific Island) Gross Domestic Product under the salary cap, the Bengals have opportunities to sign effective veterans to one-year deals. We don't suppose Wallace would go for that, nor Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline or Danny Amendola. Why not about this Jerome Simpson character we keep hearing about? Kidding. Why one-year deals? Because it wouldn't affect next year's negotiations with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and if they're not signed to extensions by then, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
NFL Draft: We'd be surprised. Four of the Bengals last 18 draft picks have been wide receivers; two in each draft during the past two years. But if the Bengals use another pick on a receiver this year, we wouldn't be totally surprised.