The much debated No. 2 wide receiver argument will resurface again this year with the team showing no interest with any of the league's top-flight free agents.
Mike Wallace signed a five-year deal worth $60 million with $30 million guaranteed with the Miami Dolphins. Wes Welker left Tom Brady for Peyton Manning to "stick it" to the Patriots and Greg Jennings signed a $47 million contract with the only team reported to have significant interest. Danny Amendola replaced Welker, though reports hinted that this deal was done right after the start of free agency. Dwayne Bowe signed a $56 million deal to stay in Kansas City while Brian Hartline ($30.7M) also returned to his original team.
Brandon Lloyd was released by New England on Saturday, losing a $3 million roster bonus; though many believe he'll return with a cheaper deal that helps New England's cap number. Victor Cruz was given a first-round tender and four concussions last year alone has Laurent Robinson's career in serious jeopardy.
That's been your wide receiver market through six days.
The Cincinnati Bengals haven't even hinted interest with a top-flight receiver through free agency this year; though Ted Ginn Jr. visited as we suspect the team's idea of a Brandon Tate replacement. They've tendered Andrew Hawkins, currently an Exclusive-Rights Free Agent.
The issue of Cincinnati's No. 2 wide receiver remains much debated. Free agency draws the interest of proven commodities, experience and names that fans know, regardless of talent level or a history of injury. We know his name, we must sign him now. The NFL draft invites radically shifted perspectives, though always similar demands of speed to complement A.J. Green. Yet no matter who the Bengals sign or draft, opposing defenses will remain obsessed with A.J. Green, who many believe is one of the top five wide receivers in the NFL. Someone else won't magically remove that obsession.
Instead Cincinnati needs players that will benefit from the attention given to Green on the outside. Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, when promoted into the starting lineup, teased insane reliability in the redzone before a season-ending injury. Marvin Jones has the speed but his hands and non-vertical routes were raw, which is historically accurate when describing the path of typical rookie receivers.
Now both are entering their second year in the NFL after combining for 34 receptions for 355 yards receiving and five touchdowns on 381 combined snaps. Andrew Hawkins established himself with 51 receptions, generating 533 yards receiving and four touchdowns (most of that in the first half of the season). If we were to make a wide receiver depth chart, it would go A.J. Green, Sanu/Jones, Andrew Hawkins and the fifth receiver designed for a prominent special teams role; it's Ted Ginn Jr's if the team and player are interested.
Regardless the Bengals had never intended to trek free agency to rival the perceived No. 2 wide receiver. They're applying patience in favor of Cincinnati's youth between Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones; an idea unheard of only five years ago when Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell were routinely buried on the depth chart for older veterans like Laveranues Coles, Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens, all of whom are out of the NFL.
Maybe for the Cincinnati Bengals to improve their offensive roster this year, they should have sought one of the top-flight free agents this week. They didn't. But then you have to ask, how willing would the team value the risk of developing Cincinnati's younger receivers, who would suffer from the decreased playing time and work during practice.
It's a risk to bank on development. But it's risk, for one reason or another, that they're clearly willing to take.