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2016 Cincinnati Bengals Offseason Outlook: Wide Receiver

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No position on the Bengals roster is going to conjure up more discussion and debate this offseason than the wide receiver position. We take a look at how things may shake out.

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The Bengals enter the 2016 offseason with 15 free agents poised to hit the market, and none will garner more attention, discussion and heated debate, than the wide receiver position. Three of the Bengals top four receivers from 2015 (Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Tate) have contracts expiring in March. How much are the Bengals willing to pay to "keep their own?" Who will they bring back? Who can they afford to bring back? And who should they bring back? Those are the questions the Bengals' front office will need to ask themselves over the next few weeks.

2015 Recap:

Coming into the 2015 season, many considered the Bengals wide receiver corps - if healthy - to be one of the better overall units in the NFL. With the return of Marvin Jones, I think it is fair to put this group in the top five to ten. Not surprising, the Bengals were led again by the perennial pro-bowler, A.J. Green, but the return of Jones cannot be understated. Despite playing in an offense where Green and Tyler Eifert were the top two targets, Jones managed to put up career highs in catches (65) and yards (816), and while his touchdowns (4) dropped significantly from his last healthy season (10 in 2013) to four in 2015, the drop was the result of Eifert becoming the go-to redzone target. With few big name wide receivers poised to hit the 2016 free agency market, Jones might be the best wideout on the market and could get the opportunity to be a thin team's number one receiver. After a career 2014, Mohamed Sanu saw a significant drop in his 2015 numbers. The drop was not a result of his ineffectiveness, rather the return of a healthy Jones and Eifert. Outside of Green, Jones and Sanu, the Bengals received a grand total of 3 catches, 74 yards and 1 touchdown from their other receivers.

Player

Rec

Yds

Rec TDs

YPA

Rush Yds

Rush TDs

YPC

A.J. Green

86

1,297

10

15.1

-

-

-

Marvin Jones

65

816

4

12.6

33

0

6.6

Mohamed Sanu

33

394

0

11.9

71

2

7.1

Brandon Tate

2

59

1

29.5

-

-

-

Mario Alford

1

15

0

15.0

-

-

-

James Wright

IR

-

-

-

-

-

-

Jake Kumerow

PS

-

-

-

-

-

-

Michael Bennett

PS

-

-

-

-

-

-

2015 Depth Chart/Contract Numbers:

WR

Player

Depth Chart

Age

Status

Likelihood to Re-Sign

2015 Cap Hit

2016 Cap Hit

Dead Money

Signed Thru

1

A.J. Green

WR1

27

Signed

N/A

$14,750,000

$13,000,000

$12,000,000

2019

2

Marvin Jones

WR2

25

UFA

40%

$700,700

-

-

-

3

Mohamed Sanu

WR3

26

UFA

30%

$1,682,813

-

-

-

4

Brandon Tate

WR4

28

UFA

45%

$665,000

-

-

-

5

Mario Alford

WR5

23

Signed

N/A

$449,776

$539,776

$44,328

2018

6

James Wright

WR6

24

Signed

N/A

-

$612,456

$24,912

2017

7

Jake Kumerow

PS

23

Signed

N/A

-

$450,000

-

2017

8

Michael Bennett

PS

24

Signed

N/A

-

$450,000

-

2017

2016 Outlook:

Other than A.J. Green, very little is known about this group entering the 2016. I expect Jones and/or Sanu to leave, and the rest of the roster, I expect to be filled with young talent. Below is my breakdown of the options and my predictions.

Marvin Jones - Jones has the potential to be a top number two and some teams may even see him - and therefore pay him - as a number one receiver. If Jones gets number one receiver offers, the Bengals cannot - and should not - match them. Personally, I would love to have Jones back. He is a good route runner, has great hands, has deep speed and is an overall good guy. However, the Bengals can't afford to pay Green his money and give Jones six or seven million dollars. Even if they can afford it this minute, you had to consider re-signing Tyler Eifert down the line and the money that will require. If the market for Jones exceeds $6 million, I think the Bengals will walk.

Mohamed Sanu - In my opinion, Sanu is a borderline number two or a solid number three. His size and physicality make him a great target, but he lacks deep speed and his hands are less than reliable. I am a big fan of Sanu. I like his attitude, I like his versatility and I like him as a good human being. Unfortunately for Sanu, with Green, Eifert and even Bernard, he is never going to be above the third or fourth option in this offense - in 2015 he was the fifth receiving option and sixth option overall. Sanu has indicated he's thought about what it would be like to take on a bigger role, and who can blame him. As a result, I think Sanu will sign elsewhere.

Brandon Tate - Bengals fans everywhere have been praying/pleading/begging for the Bengals to part with Tate for years. He offers little to nothing as a receiver, and is an average returner (at best). The Bengals drafted Mario Alford in the seventh round of the 2015 draft with the idea of grooming him to replace Tate and I believe they will give him the opportunity to win the job in 2016. I only see the Bengals re-signing Tate if they do not find adequate depth and talent in the draft.

James Wright - Wright was a solid special teams contributor in his rookie season (2014) and began to show flashes as a reliable receiver toward the end of the season before injuring his knee. Unfortunately, Wright has yet to see the field since and his status on the roster has to be in doubt. At best, he could be a pleasant surprise, but he cannot be counted on at this point.

Jake Kumerow - This is my dark horse for the number two receiver spot in 2016 if Jones leaves via free agency. While most of you are laughing, I will encourage you to watch this kid in training camp before judging. Kumerow is a 6'5" receiver, who has great hands, runs great routes, has speed in the 4.5 range and posted 33 touchdowns in his last two collegiate seasons. Granted, those seasons were at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater, but he started his career as a walk on at Illinois and has great athletic bloodlines. Jake's dad (Eric) and uncle (John Bosa) were both first round picks of the Miami Dolphins (1987 and 1988), and his cousin, Joey Bosa, is sure to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft. In the 2015 preseason, Kumerow didn't have a ton of opportunities, but when the ball went his way, he caught everything in his vicinity (6 catches, 65 yards). Call me crazy, but I expect Kumerow to get a legitimate look for the number two receiver position if Jones does not re-sign.

Free Agency:

Barring a surprise cut, I wouldn't expect the Bengals to fill in this depth chart with any outside free agents. If they don't sign their own, they will be replacing Jones, Sanu and Tate with young talent to groom behind Green. In my opinion, there will be one or two additions to this group in the offseason, all of which will come via the draft.

Draft:

I expect the Bengals to take at least one if not two receivers in this year's draft, and at least one within the first four rounds. With Jones and Sanu on the market, many mock drafters have the Bengals taking a receiver in the first round. I have seen predictions of Will Fuller (Notre Dame), Corey Coleman (Baylor), Mike Thomas (Ohio State) and even some predictions of Braxton Miller (Ohio State). However, with the defensive talent in this draft, particularly at defensive tackle and linebacker coupled with the ability to find quality receivers after day one, (not to mention the fact the Bengals have Green and Eifert), I doubt they use their first round pick on a receiver.

I would take two receivers, but I wouldn't take one before round three. Unless they re-sign both Jones and Sanu - which is highly unlikely - I expect the Bengals to take two receivers between rounds three and six.