There's a theory.
With the Oakland Raiders allowing wide receiver Jacoby Ford to hit free agency, there's a feeling that, if scenarios play out in a way that would make Cincinnati uncomfortable, there could be interest with the Bengals.
It obviously begins with Hue Jackson, who was the Raiders offensive coordinator in 2010 and head coach in 2011. Actually, that would be the primary basis of the argument. Ford has 57 career receptions with 848 yards receiving and three touchdowns -- none since 2011.
Ford, who sat out the 2012 season after undergoing Lisfranc surgery, also has experience on special teams -- 1,280 yards and three touchdowns on kickoff returns during his rookie season. Despite not doing much since Jackson's departure from Oakland, Ford is still a deep threat at receiver and a capable returner.
Why the theory?
Andrew Hawkins could find himself courted by teams looking for a decent slot receiver with special teams attributes. Because the Bengals gave Hawkins the lowest tender as a restricted free agent, teams won't have to worry about giving the Bengals compensation (as an original round tender) if they sign the fourth-year receiver to an offer sheet that Cincinnati declines. [Our prediction is that if another team signs Hawkins, the Bengals will match... provided the contract isn't ridicious... aka, Poison Pill... which we highly doubt]
Brandon Tate is an unrestricted free agent that the Bengals would like to bring back -- it's somewhat surprising that an agreement hasn't been reached at this point.
If both players leave, the Bengals need to bring replacements to Cincinnati.
There are better options out there, but don't discount the power of relationships. During the offseason in 2011, Jackson praised Ford in an effort to play him more.
"This guy scores touchdowns. We have quite a few guys on our football team that are able to stick the ball in the endzone: Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey. I mean we have a wealth of players that have a chance to do some special things," Jackson told the NFL Network during the summer of 2011.
"But obviously Jacoby is gonna become a household name because he has some very special ability. He's very good with the ball in his hands. He's very good without the ball in his hands because he draws a lot of attention. This guy is one of the most explosive kick returners in football. And I think he's just scratching the surface on what he can do."
Obviously Jackson doesn't sign players, and if it's a question of special teams, Darrin Simmons would hold more weight within that discussion.
But again. Let's not discount relationships. It was how the Bengals got the value that they did in the Carson Palmer trade and why Jackson returned to Cincinnati in 2012.