Bengals position outlook: Wide receivers

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
2:00
PM ET
With the offseason here, let's spend the next two weeks taking a position-by-position review of the Cincinnati Bengals' 2013 season and give a sneak peek at what may lie ahead in 2014.

After quarterbacks Monday and running backs Tuesday, up next:

WIDE RECEIVERS

2014 free agents: Brandon Tate, Andrew Hawkins, Dane Sanzenbacher.

[+] EnlargeMarvin Jones and A.J. Green
AP Photo/David KohlMarvin Jones, left, and A.J. Green combined for 21 touchdown catches for the Bengals in 2013.
The good: Marvin Jones' emergence highlighted what was a strong year from Cincinnati's receivers. The second-year wideout's 10 touchdown receptions were just behind A.J. Green's team-leading 11. It's the first time the Bengals have had two receivers with 10 or more touchdowns in the same season. In addition to Jones' production, and Green's 1,426 receiving yards, just 15 shy of Chad Johnson's single-season franchise record, the Bengals also got timely contributions from Sanzenbacher. Hawkins provided another playmaking option when he came back from an ankle injury after the season's midway point.

The bad: There wasn't much bad for the Bengals' receivers, other than the high number of drops and interceptions they allowed. They had 23 drops a year after having 25 as a group. Quarterback Andy Dalton also had a career-high 20 interceptions in 2013, some of which were the result of receivers either cutting off routes or not fighting enough for passes that defensive backs had perfectly timed. Another issue was Mohamed Sanu's comparative lack of production. He had five touchdowns on 25 targets as a rookie in 2012. This season, he scored just twice on 75 targets. He also had five drops after not having any last season.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Green ($6.3 million), Sanu ($730,813), Ryan Whalen ($676,280), Jones ($610,700). A lot could change for the Bengals and their receivers this offseason, financially speaking. Green may end up getting a pay raise now that he's nearing the end of his first contract, and some combination of Tate, Hawkins and Sanzenbacher either will be re-signed or let go. While a case could be made for all three to stay, Tate might be the one most likely to be retained. He didn't do much for the Bengals as a receiver this season, but he was effective in the kick return game, and proved to be a mostly adequate backup at punt returner. Due to injuries throughout their secondary, the Bengals took Adam Jones off punt-return detail and let Tate handle it. Both Hawkins and Sanzenbacher are restricted free agents.

Draft priority: It depends. If the Bengals end up losing one or more among their trio of free agents, they certainly would be looking to add a receiver or two in the draft. After adding Green, Sanu, Jones and Whalen in two of the last three drafts, they have proved they can pick talent.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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