Alex Erickson didn’t start the season as a top-five receiver on the Cincinnati Bengals roster, but he sure did end as one.
The team’s receiving corps went through changes in 2020 as John Ross III quickly fell out of the starting lineup and A.J. Green struggled to find consistency. Ross’s decline, specifically, opened up more snaps for Auden Tate, Alex Erickson, and Mike Thomas.
Erickson, an upcoming free agent this offseason, benefited from the commotion as the season progressed.
Through Week 12, Erickson had three targets and two receptions for 17 yards. He also totaled 16 punt returns for 169 yards, a 10.56 yards per punt average. Following Burrow’s season-ending injury, Erickson came on strong.
Against the Dolphins, the second game after Burrow’s injury, Erickson matched his season total with two receptions for 17 yards.
While he didn’t play a massive role in most games, Erickson was a main reason the team was able to secure their second straight win in Week 16 against the Texans. He went for six receptions and 88 yards.
That said, as a whole, the 2020 season wasn’t a good one for Erickson. He had just over a fourth as many receiving yards as he did in 2019.
With Higgins being taken in the second round and the ushering in of a new quarterback, Erickson slowly dropped in the depth chart and only resurfaced for a few brief moments in the latter half of the season.
Mainly used in the slot and a target in the middle of the field, Erickson may return to the team in 2021, but I wouldn’t expect his role to drastically increase. The team’s main receivers, Higgins and Boyd, are locked in for next season.
The 6-foot, 28-year-old wideout will be entering his sixth season in the league next year and could stay in the league due to his punt return ability. He ranked eighth in the league in punt return yards and 10th among players that returned at least ten.
That’s why the Bengals may bring the veteran receiver back, but his impact on the offense will likely remain unchanged.
For what he’s valued at, it would make sense for the two sides to work out a deal. It would also make sense for the Bengals to move on and allow Boyd to return punts as he served a backup for if Erickson were to miss time.
Erickson has played all five of his professional seasons with the Bengals. Don’t be shocked if he returns for his sixth.