The Cincinnati Bengals have the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL, but all good things must come to an end. With Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd leading off a slew of expiring contracts, this could be the last ride of The Three Amigos. They are going to need some serious money. Amigo money. No dough, no show.
Change is coming but not yet. As Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Higgins, and Boyd continue to develop mastery of their craft within Zac Taylor’s offense scheme, this could be their biggest year yet. Here is what to look for in 2023.
The wide receiver corps is all about the three amigos, but instead of Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short, the Bengals have Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Trenton Irwin was the primary backup last season. Trent Taylor was a backup slot who returned punts, and Stanley Morgan Jr. played a large role on special teams. With the addition of Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas, it is fair to say that the Bengals have a plethora of receiving talent.
- Outside: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas
- Slot: Tyler Boyd, Trent Taylor, Charlie Jones
- Special Teams: Stanley Morgan Jr., Charlie Jones (returner), Trent Taylor (returner)
Battles to Watch
Trent Taylor vs. Charlie Jones
Taylor’s primary role on the team is returning punts, but Jones is expected to take that job. If Jones can earn special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons’s trust quickly, Taylor could find himself without a job.
Trenton Irwin vs. Charlie Jones
Jones is expected to compete for the backup slot position initially, but he has the versatility to play on the outside as well. If he can establish himself as the true WR4, it will push Irwin down the depth chart, putting him at risk of getting cut.
Stanley Morgan Jr. vs. Trenton Irwin vs. depth at other positions
You would like to keep all of these guys, but at some point, it becomes a numbers game. Of course, three is a magic number, and Chase, Higgins, and Boyd are all guaranteed roster spots.
Jones is expected to win the punt returner job and the potential slot in waiting. They will want to get him some time on offense as well. That makes four.
The Bengals’ affection for Iosivas was one of the worst-kept secrets of draft season. It seems highly unlikely the Bengals would risk exposing him to waivers. Don’t forget the Bengals couldn’t get UDFA Kendric Pryor to clear waivers, so they could put him on the practice squad a year ago. That gives you five wide receivers who are almost certain to make the team.
They could keep seven receivers, but that would affect their ability to keep special teams and developmental players at other positions. If they only keep six, it could come down to Morgan and Irwin for the final spot. Irwin has established himself as a reliable and productive backup receiver, while Morgan shines on special teams. Each is well-liked inside and outside the building and has played an important role for the team, but one could be gone by September.
The x-factor could be Shedrick Jackson. Yes, he is Bo Jackson’s nephew, but more importantly, he tested off the charts. He ran a 4.31 40 and has a 38.5-inch vertical.
It will be very hard for him to make the active roster, but with the potential turnover at the wide receiver position in 2024, Jackson has a good shot at earning a spot on the practice squad.
There is always chatter about going “all in” and signing guys like DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. While that is a recklessly irresponsible and, by definition, unsustainable method of team building, the Bengals have done it organically at the wide receiver position. Boyd and Higgins are in the final year of their respective contracts and could have a contract-year surge in production. Chase and Burrow are both not far behind.
Add in the continued improvements to the offensive line, and you’ve got the perfect storm. The Bengals' passing attack is poised to go off in 2023.
The Three Amigos defeated El Guapo, and they will triumph over free agency as well. With Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins potentially hitting the free agent market after this season, both will be highly motivated to put up numbers and show their value in 2023.
There has been a lot of talk about how they drafted a potential Boyd replacement in Charlie Jones but less talk about Andrei Iosivas as a potential Higgins replacement. Iosivas is not as much of a project as he has been made out to be due to his level of college competition. It will be interesting to see what he can do in the preseason.