The Cincinnati Bengals' 2015 season on offense was the culmination of some savvy draft selections over the past half-decade. Talented weapons littered the field, and a noticeable difference could be seen from quarterback Andy Dalton. The stockpiling of talent to aid Dalton was the front office's plan from the moment they drafted him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Just a few months after the end of the season, the Bengals now face the prospect of losing two of their top-four receiving options in free agency. Mohamed Sanu, a gadget guy who often manned the slot for the Bengals, seems to feel under-appreciated and rumors are spinning about his moving on elsewhere. Meanwhile, Marvin Jones, the team's other outside option opposite A.J. Green, seems likely to test the free agent market and could leave as well.
Even though they re-signed Brandon Tate on Friday, the Bengals need to continue to surround their quarterback with able weapons to keep the momentum from last season. Tate doesn't bring much as an offensive player to the team, so if Sanu and/or Jones leave, holes will remain on the roster. Whether it's by re-signing one or both of the two, grabbing another outside free agent, and/or drafting a talented youngster, the position group should be one of the highest priorities of the offseason.
Keeping the Gang Together:
Though I've been vocal about my preference for the Bengals to always look for a way to improve themselves, keeping the status quo for a receiver position group that has been very productive in their time here is a high priority. But, that's the issue with drafting well--productive players in lesser or reserve roles could get paid more along with a depth chart promotion on another team.
Maybe the Bengals play it a little conniving with this one. Point to some high-profile receivers and other free agents who thought the grass was greener elsewhere during negotiations. They could note the success of the collective group, and pay a little more to each than the front office maybe initially wanted to. Tugging on the heart strings might work too, given the appearance of great camaraderie in the group.
Great teams with good quarterbacks have found the ability to replace perimeter weapons to continue their reign. Faith should be placed in the Bengals organization (sounds weird to say that now, doesn't it?) to find a way to replace Sanu and/or Jones--especially in the draft. But, the trio of receivers and their quarterback know each other well, and it takes time to build up the ease of being on the same page.
The good news with potential departures of wide receivers is the amount of outside options the Bengals could pursue in free agency. Rishard Matthews of the Dolphins, Brian Quick of the Rams, the Browns' Travis Benjamin, Rueben Randle of the Giants and Seattle's Jermaine Kearse might all be out there. Some older veterans left on the scrap heap will also be floating out there too.
If Jones leaves, Quick, Benjamin, Randle and Kearse all seem like reasonable fallback guys for a replacement. Matthews could be a nice slot option if Sanu bolts. Otherwise, it's on to the draft for other options.
There are a bunch of guys to look at, and we recently mocked Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd to the Bengals, but they might look at weapons earlier than round three--especially if both Sanu and Jones leave. It will be a big blow if the Bengals lose either or both of these players, but the important thing is for the Bengals not to sit on their hands. Whether it's spending some of their $39 million in cap space on a free agent and/or using the draft, they need to continue to give Dalton the biggest chance for success while keeping the cabinets full.