With the departure of Marvin Jones and the expected exit of Mohamed Sanu, James Wright's comeback is going to be even more scrutinized.
When the Bengals went to bed Tuesday night after going step-for-step with the Lions in pursuit of wide receiver Marvin Jones, they were confident they could retain A.J. Green's running mate. So they were a bit taken aback when Jones took what looked to be about the same money to go to a different system and a different quarterback in the other conference.
It appeared to be a move more about opportunity than money since the Bengals' two top options is the Pro Bowl tandem of Green and tight end Tyler Eifert and their combined 23 touchdowns. After getting just four touchdowns of his 65 catches last season, Jones seems to be drawn to a team where there is no No. 1 receiver in the post Calvin Johnson Era.
So who gets the chances for Cincinnati now that Jones and No. 3 wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (seemingly ticketed to Atlanta) have taken their 98 catches and more than 1,200 yards from last season?
-The first place where they'll look to replace Jones and Sanu is right where they got them. Sanu was a third-round pick in 2012 and Jones was taken two rounds later, so that means taking a wide receiver with the 24th pick in the first round isn't a must. But the draft is the first place they'll look. The Bengals figure to have at least eight draft picks and maybe nine, so taking two receivers would make sense.
The problem is that rookie receivers don't come in right away and match the production of four-year veterans like Jones and Sanu. So they'll need to piece it together with a couple of rookies, the third-year James Wright, the second-year slot receiver Mario Alford, and practice squad receiver Jake Kumerow. And maybe a veteran, but . . .
-Don't look for a veteran free agent. At least not right now. Maybe they could sign a vet in about a month or so.
Maybe. But certainly don't look for an unrestricted free agent. The Bengals are going to do what they can with the NFL compensation formula to get a third-round draft pick in 2017 as payback for the Jones loss and a UFA is going wipe out the compensation.
And the recently released Mike Wallace doesn't look to be an answer. A speed guy who turns 30 Aug. 1? The Bengals have gone that route before, plucking 30ish wide outs and it hasn't worked. Laveranues Coles was too slow when he replaced T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2009 and Antonio Bryant was too hurt to even practice after getting $7 million to sign in 2010. Later that summer 36-year-old Terrell Owens came in to rescue them and led the team in receiving. But he was too-too and, besides, it was a 4-12 team and they've never tried it again.
-Look for more double tight end sets with Eifert and Tyler Kroft, the third-round pick who really came on in his rookie year when Eifert missed three December games. Wright, a seventh-round pick in 2014, is intriguing. He was emerging as versatile No. 3 receiver type with five catches before he got hurt late in his rookie year and missed all of 2015 with micro fracture knee surgery. So he's basically a question mark until the spring.