Following his rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Andy Dalton lost two of his four leading receivers when Jerome Simpson signed with Minnesota and Andre Caldwell left for Denver.
The Bengals drafted Mohamed Sanu in the third round and Marvin Jones in the fifth to replace those two, and four years later things have come full circle with Jones bolting for Detroit and Sanu landing in Atlanta.
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“It’s easier to do now than if it had been my first year or second year,” Dalton said Monday as the team began its voluntary offseason workouts.
Still having five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert makes things considerably easier as well.
The Bengals also signed veteran Brandon LaFell and re-signed Brandon Tate last month, and they still have youngsters James Wright, Mario Alford and Jake Kumerow. But the player who lines up as the starting receiver opposite Green on Sept. 11 in New York might be a guy they draft next week, possibly in the first round.
“Who is the next guy going to be? That’s what you do and that’s what everybody has been talking about,” Dalton said. “I think it’s huge for us to sign Brandon (LaFell) just from the experience he’s got.
“We have the luxury of talking about losing a second and third receiver , but we still have A.J. We still have Tyler. It’s not like we’re hurting completely at these positions because we’ve got so much talent there. That’s the biggest thing.”
Eifert said whatever the situation ends up being at receiver, it won’t affect his approach as he tries to build on the best season of his career in which he caught 13 touchdown passes to set the franchise record for tight ends.
“Obviously A.J. is one of the best receivers in the league and he has been for the past five years, so that’s a good place to start,” Eifert said. “I’m happy to help out wherever I can. It doesn’t really matter who we have at receiver as far as my mindset goes. I’m just trying to be the best player I can be and be as productive as I can be to help this team win.”
Two possible targets in the first round are receivers whom Eifert and Dalton are familiar with. Will Fuller comes from Eifert’s alma mater at Notre Dame, while Doctson is a TCU product like Dalton.
“He can run really fast,” Eifert said of Fuller. “When I look at the mock drafts, I guess it’s better to look at the mock drafts to see where guys aren’t going to go because if they’re mocked there then they’re not going to go there. Maybe we draft him. I have no idea. No one’s told me anything. But it’s kind of cool when you see a Notre Dame guy. I’m the only Notre Dame guy on the team.”
Dalton already has a fellow TCU player on the roster in linebacker Paul Dawson, and he said he thinks Doctson would be a great addition as well.
“He’s been down at TCU working out when I have to, so I’ve gotten to know him some,” Dalton said. “He’s a good kid. He’s going to be successful with whatever team he gets to. He’s a guy that I’ve watched obviously — because I follow TCU — more than any of those other guys. I’m rooting for him.”