For the antagonism that Brandon LaFell received in Cincinnati, the veteran wide receiver played his part; he did exactly what he was expected of him.
Following Cincinnati’s Tsar Bomba-sized postseason meltdown against Pittsburgh, the Bengals solemnly watched Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu sign contracts worth a combined $72.5 million with Detroit and Atlanta respectively. It was a depressing wave goodbye with a red-hued mist emerging from Andy Dalton’s Disney-sized eyes.
“Who is the next guy going to be,” quarterback Andy Dalton asked in April 2016. ”That’s what you do and that’s what everybody has been talking about. It’s not like we’re hurting completely at these positions because we’ve got so much talent there.”
This was around the time that the local media and fans were banking on names like James Wright, Mario Alford, and Jake Kumerow. Tyler Eifert was coming off a career-best season in 2015, but would only play 10 games over the next two seasons. In the meantime, Cincinnati drafted John Ross, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, Josh Malone, and Auden Tate.
In other words, a transition was taking place.
They needed a stop-gap.
So Cincinnati called Brandon LaFell, inking the veteran receiver to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million in 2016 and a two-year deal worth $9 million in 2017. What did he do for Cincinnati? He played all 32 games (which is more than what Eifert and A.J. Green can say) and posted 1,410 receiving yards on 116 receptions and nine touchdowns — comparable to Jones and Sanu.
2016-2017 combined stats
In the meantime, Boyd and Ross, after transition struggles and nagging injuries, have become training camp darlings this year. Tate and Malone peripherally joined them.
LaFell saw the writing on the wall.
According to NFL Insider Mike Garafolo, LaFell’s agent Jonathan Feinsod requested his release. “We have been lobbying for his release for some time now and appreciate the Bengals granting our request.” A team source told ESPN that they wouldn’t base a player’s release on such a request, and that “the decision was entirely based on getting the young receivers more reps.”
Regardless, the separation is complete.
“We want to thank Brandon for his contributions to Bengals,” head coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. “He has been a consummate pro and teammate, a strong voice on the team and a great mentor for the young players. We wish him and his family the best in the future.”
Cincinnati made the obvious call here, allowing younger players to accumulate reps while giving LaFell an opportunity to catch on elsewhere. This was a move that made sense.
LaFell did his part in Cincinnati. He did exactly what he was asked; he helped the team transition to a new crop of young receivers.