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What will Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu be worth in free agency?

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If the Bengals decide to keep Mohamed Sanu on the roster, they'll likely end up paying much more than he's actually worth.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With 2016 free agency inching closer by the day, doubts of whether Mohamed Sanu will re-sign with the Cincinnati Bengals have begun to surface.

Reports have suggested Sanu won't be re-signing with Cincinnati, but if Marvin Jones walks in free agency, odds are, the Bengals will throw more money Sanu's way to keep him in Cincinnati. This would be similar to how Carlos Dunlap got the money originally set aside for Michael Johnson in free agency after the veteran defensive end walked after the 2013 season.

Sanu has been a versatile playmaker for the Bengals, catching 11 career touchdowns, as well as rushing and passing for two touchdowns apiece. Sanu did this while being Cincinnati's third receiver, fourth in the pecking order of pass-catchers behind A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert. In his limited time as a starter, Sanu was inconsistent. He recorded more than 120 yards receiving in two games during the 2014 season, but he also had less than 20 yards in five games during the same season.

Spotrac projected how they see Sanu's next contract working out.

Mohamed Sanu, CIN
Calculated: 4 years, $17.2M ($4.3M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $16.5M ($4.1M AAV)

A contract paying over $4 million annually is very close to wide receiver two money, which is likely more than Sanu is actually worth. It will be interesting to see whether Cincinnati can lock up Marvin Jones long-term, because if the Bengals don't lock him up, they may pay this or even more to retain Sanu.

And as Spotrac points out, receivers of the same caliber don't always get deals even close to each other. Here's a look at the deals four similar receivers received in recent years, per Spotrac.

PLAYER LENGTH VALUE AVG. SALARY AGE WHEN SIGNED
Jeremy Kerley 4 $14,000,000 $3,500,000 25
Jarius Wright 4 $14,800,000 $3,700,000 25
Emmanuel Sanders 3 $15,000,000 $5,000,000 26
Kenny Britt 2 $9,150,000 $4,575,000 26
AVERAGE 3.3 $13,237,500 $4,073,077 25.5


Of those four, I would compare Sanu's level of play to that of Jeremy Kerley. Teams looking to sign Kerley never expected him to be one of their starting receivers on the outside, and for this reason, Kerley ended up playing on a reasonable salary. However, with such a thin wide receiver market in free agency, Sanu could ultimately see Emmanuel Sanders money and an increased role with a new team.

Whether Cincinnati ends up re-signing Sanu will be very dependent on Jones' decision to either stay in Cincinnati or walk during free agency. When Johnson elected to leave for Tampa Bay, Dunlap ended up getting the deal despite lesser production and more question marks in his game. Dunlap's contract looks like a bargain now, as the defensive end is coming off arguably the best season by a defensive end in Bengals history and Cincinnati's defense is one of the NFL's best.

With teams like the Giants and Browns potentially willing to overpay for Sanu's services, the only way it seems he'd end up staying in Cincinnati is if Jones walked and the Bengals elect to overpay him. But, with talented weapons Will Fuller, Corey Coleman and Josh Doctson projected to be drafted in the first round of this year's NFL Draft (and be available near the Bengals' first round pick), the team could elect to draft a wide receiver, should Jones and Sanu both leave for more money elsewhere.

I imagine Cincinnati will send Sanu an offer around $4 million before March 10, and I think they'll increase that offer if Jones signs elsewhere.