When the 2016 offseason commenced, the Bengals were in need of two new receivers to replace Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Cincinnati used both the draft and free agency as a remedy for their losses.
Tyler Boyd came in round two of the 2016 NFL Draft, while veteran journeyman Brandon LaFell was a seasoned addition opposite A.J. Green in free agency. It’s been a season of ups and downs from the Bengals’ offense, but LaFell has stepped up in a pretty big way this year.
Whether it has been in relief of the injured Green, or in carrying an inexperienced position group, LaFell has had one of the best seasons in his career, topped by only his Super Bowl season with the Patriots in production. Though there have been dry spells in his lone season with the Bengals, LaFell finished the 2016 season with 64 catches, 862 yards and six touchdowns this year.
It’s no secret that part of LaFell’s stats were padded by Green’s absence in the lineup this season. Though it wasn’t always translating to wins, the Pro Bowl wide receiver was on pace for his best season in the NFL before a hamstring injury derailed the rest of his year. LaFell helped ease that blow and had three 90+ receiving yard games in the final five games of the season, which are the same five games Green missed all but two snaps of this season.
In 2017, Cincinnati will likely look for a speedy option at wideout, be it in the draft or free agency. So, the question needs to be asked if LaFell has proven his worth as a long-term receiving option, or if his production totally replaceable?
We debated the issue on the latest episode of The Orange and Black Insider, and it begs to be discussed again after a solid, seven-catch, 67-yard performance in the season finale.
Obviously, many factors are at play, including age and contract demands, but LaFell has to be in the team’s offseason discussion. Do you believe LaFell earned a long-term role with the club, or should youth and speed reign supreme?