LaFell deal figures to wrap free agency before draft


Brandon LaFell's best days have been with the Patriots.

Brandon LaFell, one year removed from a career year, signed Thursday to bring his 278 career catches to a Bengals receiving corps that took some hits in free agency.

The 6-2, 208-pound LaFell, who had 74 catches and 953 yards for the 2014 Super Bowl champion Patriots, can be penciled in as the starting wide receiver opposite five-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green in the wake of Marvin Jones' departure.  The 29-year-old LaFell, whose broken foot limited him to 11 games last year, is looking to bounce back from a 37-catch season.

With Jones' 65 catches now in Detroit and Mohamed Sanu's 33 catches in Atlanta, the Bengals are still going to look at drafting a wide receiver. But the addition of LaFell means they don't have to rush a rookie or one of their rookies from last season in Mario Alford and Jake Kumerow.

The deal comes a day after veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby signed a one-year deal and gives them two potential Opening Day starters heading into the April 28-30 NFL Draft.

"I am fired up, excited to have Brandon on our team," said Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese in a Thursday news release. "We had a great visit when he came in, and I think he's a really good player who's going to fit right in for us. I like his style, his work ethic and his consistency, both on the field and just as a person. He's got great experience, and a lot of toughness, too."

LaFell, 29, has a Super Bowl touchdown to his credit when his 11-yard catch from Tom Brady started the scoring in New England's win over Seattle. He had another TD catch in that postseason to go with 13 catches for 119 yards in those three games.

After he came back from the injury last year, he struggled with 10 drops and played sparingly in the AFC  title game loss in Denver. But he is apparently having a good offseason and brings the position seven seasons of solid experience.

LaFell was a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2010 and before he left in free agency he set the Carolina record for the longest scrimmage play in history on a 91-yard touchdown from rookie quarterback Cam Newton against Tampa Bay in 2011.

With backup linebacker/safety Taylor Mays expected to sign soon, the Bengals look to have finished their work in free agency as they prepare for the draft. The acquisitions of Dansby, LaFell, and Mays, along with the re-signings of starting cornerback Adam Jones and starting safety George Iloka as well as regular linebacker Vincent Rey, backup defensive tackles Pat Sims and Brandon Thompson, backup tackle Eric Winston, and backup wide receiver Brandon Tate, figure to account for a salary cap count in 2016 of a little north of $20 million.

The Bengals still have some veterans they highly regard in free agency, such as safety Reggie Nelson, cornerback Leon Hall, and defensive end/tackle Wallace Gilberry. But they're running out of room on the roster and under the cap as the draft looms and they hope to extend some players heading into free agency next year.

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