It’s a new
day dey in Cincinnati, and no player is safe...
Yesterday Tony Pauline reported and later Ian Rapoport confirmed that the Bengals will begin efforts to trade wide receiver John Ross. Ross is coming off his first full season in the NFL and is still only 23 years old (everywhere lists him as 24 for some reason).
In 2018, Ross hauled in 21 receptions for 210 yards, with seven of those receptions ending up as touchdowns. While he was efficient at converting his catches into scores, the Bengals’ offense had much greater trouble converting his targets into catches. Ross saw 55 passes thrown his way, and while his seven drops are a concern, it was a rarity for either Andy Dalton or Jeff Driskel to give him a catchable target down the field.
Among WRs with at least 15 deep targets (20+ yds), John Ross saw the second highest uncatchable target rate (73.3%) according to @SportsInfo_SIS— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) February 26, 2019
Maybe the Bengals should get a competent QB before giving up on Ross.
By season’s end, the Bengals’ quarterbacks had a 51.5 passer rating when targeting the second-year speedster. Ross had his own issues plaguing his game but a lack of creative play calling and competent quarterback play seemed to be the dominant factors contributing to his lack of production.
A new system under a new head coach and play caller Zac Taylor would benefit Ross, but what if the relationship between player and management is more strained than we know? When there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. The only thing that doesn’t seem to add up is the logistics from Cincinnati’s end.
Trading Ross before June 1st will cost the Bengals a little over $5 million in dead money. On top of that, Ross may be a former first-round pick entering his third year, but Cincinnati receiving anything higher than a fourth-round pick for him would be incredulous — injuries and lack of production being why.
Nevertheless, all 32 teams will be present for the NFL Combine this week and if the Bengals want to cut their losses by any means and deal Ross away, these five teams look like ideal partners.
The team that will be willing to bring in Ross will likely be in need of receiver depth while possessing extra draft capital. The Cardinals found a keeper in Christian Kirk last year and still have Larry Fitzgerald for one more year, but have next to nothing behind them. Also, the Bengals and Cardinals both have the second-most draft picks this year.
Freshly-hired head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Arizona’s front office has been busy this offseason acquiring talent, and Kingsbury will likely need ample receiver depth if his transition from Big 12 all-out spread to the NFL is to go as smooth as possible. Building around quarterback Josh Rosen is also a high priority, and Ross can achieve his potential with the talented signal-caller that is in dire need of help.
The quarterback taken three picks ahead of Rosen last year, Josh Allen, also could use more bodies to throw to. Robert Foster and Allen developed solid chemistry late last year and Zay Jones and Isaiah McKenzie should continue to be serviceable compliments. Ross can infuse the receiver group with raw talent and downfield speed that it doesn’t have.
Buffalo is also one of the four teams with at least four draft picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. This range of draft capital is most likely the best the Bengals can hope for.
With two picks in the fifth round, the Broncos find themselves in a good position to acquire Ross. Their current starting trio of Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and Daeshan Hamilton could use some speed on the outside, even though they don’t have the most cap space to work with ($18,376,719).
Earlier this month, the Broncos agreed in principle to trade a fourth-round pick for Ravens QB Joe Flacco. Flacco figures to not be the long-term option in Denver, and it’s entirely possible they address the quarterback position early in the NFL Draft this year. If they want to win now with Flacco and help their young quarterback in the next couple of seasons, sending a day three draft pick for Ross is a step in the right direction.
Broncos looking for a "burner" WR. Exploring FA options.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) February 26, 2019
They love their young nucleus of Sutton, Patrick and Hamilton but don't have anyone that takes the top off.
Green Bay Packers
This might be the best situation possible for both sides. The Packers have an extra fourth-round pick (along with an extra sixth-round pick too), plenty of cap space, and a need to give Davante Adams some help next to him at receiver. Randall Cobb is a free agent and reportedly not expected to return, leaving names such as Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimous St. Brown left on the depth chart.
In short, quarterback Aaron Rodgers could use some better talent to work with. Replacing Cobb with Ross for the price of a mid-round draft pick would accomplish that, along with giving Ross a chance to play with the NFL’s most efficient quarterback of all-time in a revamped scheme.
Jon Gruden (but really Mark Davis) worked really hard this past year to acquire loads of draft capital, maybe it’s time to start using it. They don’t have any extra picks from the second through the sixth round this year, but three first-round picks may make them comfortable disposing of a fifth or sixth.
The Raiders have to decide whether Derek Carr is truly worth building around, but no matter who’s running Gruden’s offense, their receivers need to be better. Jordy Nelson, Marcel Ateman and Seth Roberts don’t inspire much confidence; Nelson and Roberts aren’t even under contract after 2019. Ross can bring the speed on the outside that Martavis Bryant was supposed to.