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Should Bengals go after Alshon Jeffery in free agency? ESPN thinks so

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A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffery on the same team? That would form a very scary offense.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It won't be long until NFL free agency begins, but the Bengals have yet to show progress toward re-signing any of their impending free agents.

That includes starting slot receiver Mohamed Sanu and starting boundary receiver Marvin Jones, both of whom are set to hit the open market for the first time in their pro careers. Reading the tea leaves, it doesn't look like either has a great shot of being back with many other teams lining up to throw big-money deals their way.

But if the Bengals do lose both, why not turn that negative into a positive?

That's what Aaron Schatz and Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders (via ESPN) thinks the Bengals should do this offseason by getting Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery.

How thin is the 2016 free-agent market at wide receiver? Cincinnati's own Marvin Jones may be the second-best player available, but if the Bengals want to upgrade, they should target Chicago's Jeffery. There is a good chance he does not leave Chicago, but this would definitely be a power move for a Cincinnati team in desperate need of getting over the hump in the playoffs, where Marvin Lewis is now 0-7.

This offense could use more from wide receivers not named A.J. Green. Andy Dalton had a career year before injuring his thumb, but he still has a tendency to throw high passes that his receivers have to adjust to. Jeffery is 6-foot-4, has reliable hands and can win on contested passes down the field. He is more than a deep threat too, having seen an uptick in screen passes the past two years, and would make for a great duo with Green in a division that lacks secondary depth.

The 1990s model of having one dominant receiver has not worked well in this era. If Cincinnati wants to score more than 17 points in a playoff game again, it should give Dalton and Green more help.

On one hand, this would be a wise move by the Bengals 'if' they end up losing Sanu and Jones. Getting Jeffery could work out better than spending a high pick on an unproven wide receiver in the draft.

Jeffery has shown he can be a star in this league, and someone to who would be the perfect complement to Green in the Bengals' offense. I'd be all for the Bengals making a move to acquire Jeffery, whether it's through free agency or a trade with Chicago. This would in turn allow both Sanu and Jones to leave in free agency and then the Bengals could possibly get some compensatory picks for them to help offset the traded pick(s) Cincy gives up to get Jeffery in 2017.

On the other hand, this would go against just about everything the Bengals have ever done. They don't go after other team's stars, opting instead to develop and keep their own home-grown talent. That model has helped them draft, develop and re-sign guys like Green, Geno Atkins, Andy Dalton, Chad Johnson, Carson Palmer, Rudi Johnson and Andrew Whitworth, among many others.

Getting another team's star typically requires the acquiring team to overpay to get said player away from his original team. In this case, it could cost the Bengals a large contract to snag Jeffrey in free agency. And, all indications are the Bears will place the franchise tag on Jeffrey if he doesn't sign a long-term extension before the start of free agency

In other words, this is something nice to daydream about during the painfully long offseason, but it's probably nothing more than a fantasy.