The Cincinnati Bengals are facing an interesting crossroads this offseason, as they have 14 unrestricted free agents set to hit the market after five straight years of playoff failures. After an exciting 2015 campaign on offense, two Bengals receivers are among the 14 who might test the open market.
The Browns are expected to pursue Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu, who's set to become a free agent March 9, a league source told cleveland.com.
The fifth-year receiver could be reunited in Cleveland with coach Hue Jackson, who spent all four of Sanu's years in Cincinnati with him, including the final two as offensive coordinator. Jackson loved Sanu's versatility and would undoubtedly want to have him here, a source said. In addition to playing in the slot, the former high school quarterback can throw, run and play some wildcat.
Cincinnati frequently used Sanu’s versatility in his four seasons with the Bengals, but he saw a noticeable dip in production last year. After setting career-highs with 790 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2014, Sanu finished with just 394 receiving yards and failed to grab a receiving touchdown for the first time in his professional career.
Still, Sanu has been an integral part of a very productive receiver group since he joined the club via the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He also stepped up in 2014 after injuries hit A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, who is also slated to hit the open market. The Bengals obviously have been doing what they can to surround Andy Dalton with as many viable weapons as possible, so keeping the gang together would be a good move.
The Bengals have made it known that their focus will be internally-driven in free agency once again in 2016. It’s pretty well-known they want Jones back, but it’s unclear how much they are willing to spend on Sanu. Uncoincidentally, this report comes on the heels of another stating there was "virtually no chance" of Sanu returning to Cincinnati, and it comes just two years removed from the Browns' poaching of another then-Bengals receiver, Andrew Hawkins.
A fear from Bengals fans when Jackson took the head coaching gig in Cleveland was his potential pursuit of Cincinnati’s valuable free agents. If this report is to be taken at face value, it seems as if that may be coming to fruition.