With Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu wearing new uniforms in 2016, the Bengals need to rebound quickly and add some quality talent to their wide receiver corps. What was one of their best units in 2015 could quickly become one of their weakest depending on how the rest of the offseason goes.
Of course, the future starter across from A.J. Green will most likely be drafted next month. But Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson or whoever Cincinnati takes with the 24th-overall pick will probably need time to become a reliable playmaker. Until that happens, quarterback Andy Dalton needs more options in the passing game.
Which free agent wide receivers remain on the open market and could be decent options for the Bengals? Watch the following video to find out:
Instead of chasing a bigger receiver (like Brandon LaFell) in free agency, the Bengals would be wise to add a smaller, more dynamic player who can work out of the slot and add another dimension to the offense, something they haven't had since Andrew Hawkins signed with the Cleveland Browns. This will prevent Dalton from returning to his pre-2015 form, when he force-fed Green the ball due to a lack of options.
Taking into consideration the fact that the Bengals aren't willing to break the bank in free agency and also that most of the top free agents are already off the market, here are some potential targets for slot receivers to help the Bengals while they develop a rookie wide receiver.
1. Percy Harvin - You might ask: "Wait, do you mean the Percy Harvin who reportedly fought with teammates and even refused to enter three games?" Yes. "So that's the same Percy Harvin who was traded by the Seattle Seahawks, cut by the New York Jets and had his contract voided by the Buffalo Bills, all in less than a year and a half?" Mmm hmm. "Just to be clear, we're talking about the Percy Harvin who's only played in 28 games the past 4 seasons and whose hips are about as healthy as a 90-year-old grandma?" Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I think we're talking about the same guy.
Here's why: It's very simple. Low risk, high reward. I'm not worried in the least about Harvin destroying the great team chemistry the Bengals have. If Marvin Lewis can handle Adam "Pacman" Jones and Vontaze Burfict, trust me, he can handle a receiver who knows his next shot is likely his last one. (Sorry, but Terrell Owens' attitude wasn't the reason the Bengals went 4-12 in 2010.)
In terms of on-the-field production, if Harvin is healthy, he gives the Bengals an elusive receiver, deep threat, elite returner and another option in the running game. If he's plagued by injuries, he can be cut with minimal damage done to the cap.
2. Lance Moore - Did you know he has 44 career receiving touchdowns? Sure he spent all but two of his eight seasons in the NFL catching passes from Drew Brees. But he wasn't too bad on the Detroit Lions last year, catching 29 passes for 337 yards and 4 touchdowns. By comparison, in his best year in Cincinnati, Hawkins had 51 receptions for 533 yards and 4 touchdowns. So Moore, even at age 32, still produces in the slot. An added bonus is that he's from Columbus, Ohio. And we're looking for cheap options, remember?
3. Wes Welker - He's played in three Super Bowls, worked with two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) and has the most catches and second most receiving yards in the history of the New England Patriots. But he's almost 35 and he probably should have retired a couple of concussions ago.
The verdict: Give Harvin a shot. He has the most upside and has - assuming health - the most left in the tank. Remember, we're talking about someone to fill the role of slot receiver. The hope is that Cincinnati drafts a WR2, continues to use Tyler Eifert as an end zone target and puts the ball in the hands of Giovani Bernard on screens at least a few times a game. There's also the ability to increase Tyler Kroft's role and utilize more two-tight end sets. But adding a nifty receiver who Dalton can turn to on blitzes or when he's flushed out of the pocket almost seems like a necessity. And remember, we're trying to be realistic here.