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NFL Free Agency: Bengals and Brandon LaFell agree to deal

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Brandon LaFell is now a Bengal.

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Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals continued their mini free agency splurge Wednesday by adding to their depleted receiving corps.

The latest move (which comes after officially signing Karlos Dansby this morning) comes in the form of free agent wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who has reportedly agreed to a deal with Cincinnati, per Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo.

You could argue this is the biggest acquisition the Bengals have made this offseason with this being such a thin area after Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left earlier in the month for big contracts elsewhere. The former New England Patriots receiver should still have enough in the tank to make a positive impact on next season's team.

Because LaFell was released this offseason by New England, signing him to a contract doesn't factor into the Bengals' 2017 compensatory picks which they figure to get the maximum of, four, thanks to Jones, Sanu, Andre Smith and Emmanuel Lamur signing free agent deals elsewhere.

LaFell, now 29-years-old, entered this offseason in the final year of his three-year, $9-million deal with the Patriots and was set to make $2.4 million in 2016 before New England cut him loose less than a week before the start of free agency. Injuries plagued LaFell in 2015 and led to him opening the year on PUP after offseason foot surgery.

That led to LaFell playing in just 11 games for the Patriots and recording 37 catches for 515 yards and no touchdowns. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 119 receiver out of 121 qualifying players. Despite his struggles, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick complimented LaFell for his work ethic and battling back from his injury, so it doesn't look like he left on bad terms as much as New England being tight against the cap and needing to re-sign several key players.

LaFell was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He set a Panthers franchise record for the longest pass play in Panthers history on Christmas Eve in 2011 with a 91-yard touchdown catch from then-rookie quarterback Cam Newton.

In 87 career games played with the Patriots and Panthers, LaFell has 278 receptions for 3,853 and 20 touchdowns through six seasons. He may not be as good of a weapon as Marvin Jones, but he's certainly capable of making up for the lost production of Mohamed Sanu.

Back in 2014, LaFell caught 74 passes for 953 yards and seven scores while becoming a focal point in New England's offense. He was one of the best free agent options at wide receiver this offseason with it being a very thin market, so the Bengals did well getting him this late.

LaFell also becomes the second former Patriots receiver to join the Bengals recently after Brandon Tate did the same in 2011. As of yesterday, Tate was essentially the No. 2 wide receiver currently on the Bengals. That's how depleted the Bengals are right now at wide receiver, though the NFL draft has yet to take place.

Before this move, I would have guessed the Bengals would take two wide receivers within the first four rounds of this year's draft, perhaps even going back-to-back in Rounds 1 and 2, similar to what they did taking two tackles last year.

But now with LaFell, the Bengals have a little security at that position and don't even necessarily need to take one in the first round now. They'll still likely take one within the first two rounds, but they can be a little more flexible in how they do it and not just take a receiver in Round 1 because they need to.

That's the kind of impact LaFell may have before he even plays a down of football for the Bengals.