The Bengals are in extensive talks with Brandon LaFell. He’s the type of player that could compete with a potential first-found receiver selection, Brandon Tate, and others on the roster for the No. 2 wide receiver spot across from A.J. Green. His numbers were down from injuries this past season, but he had a career year in 2014. He could very well pay major dividends for Cincinnati.
Per reports from SB Nation and Pro Football Focus, the Cincinnati Bengals are very close to signing veteran wide receiver Brandon LaFell. The former-Patriots player has been meeting with the team this week and looks set to be a quiet, yet solid acquisition by the team.
Cincinnati is without its No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, respectively, after the former left for Detroit and the latter for Atlanta.
To some extent, LaFell dropped off the radar as Free Agency started in February, largely because of an injury-plagued campaign in 2015. However, the Bengals have a strong track record of quietly productive offseasons, and it’s easy to see the team signing him based on a very consistent 2014 season when he had a career-high 953 yards and seven scores on 74 receptions.
On a roster with Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and now Martellus Bennett, it’s understandable LaFell’s numbers wouldn’t typically warrant a double-take every year. But based on his numbers when healthy, LaFell should compete for the starting spot opposite of star receiver A.J. Green, something the Bengals need in order to maintain a downfield passing attack.
Jones’ ability to extend the field will be missed – and whether this signing represents more of a stop gap than anything remains to be seen – but it appears the team thinks LaFell can effectively fill that gap in some respect. At the very least, they hope this is no Greg Little project.
What Will Happen:
Obviously, there won’t be any guarantees for LaFell. Much of the success of any given receiver under Andy Dalton has required time to develop chemistry. Green, to an extent, has been the only exception. Mohamed Sanu, for all his talent as a possession receiver, never seemed to click in the offense – apart from a four-game stretch where he was virtually the only healthy receiver on the roster in 2013.
Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert each took a full year of healthy play before truly connecting in the offense.
That means that training camp will be very interesting this year, as it’s easy to expect multiple camp battles, especially at receiver, on the depth chart. Even with the signing of LaFell, it would be surprising if the Bengals didn’t target a receiver in the top two rounds.
Josh Doctson of TCU has been climbing draft boards since his Combine performance, and Cincinnati has also expressed interest in Corey Coleman of Baylor. Brandon Tate will likely be in the mix as well, despite an unproductive 2015 as a receiver.
LaFell has only had three fumbles in his six-year career, only one of which has been lost. It’s no secret that fumbles have been, at times, an ailment for the Bengals – not just for Jeremy Hill. Even Green is not immune to them, as proven by the last game in 2014 with the division on the line in the Bengals’ final drive. For LaFell to come in with a track record of securing the ball, that’s important.