The Cincinnati Bengals have struggled to put out a consistently strong group of wide receivers ever since they lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the same offseason a few years ago. Since then, they have seen 2016 second-round pick Tyler Boyd finally emerge last season across from A.J. Green, but they are still waiting for another contender.
That includes 2017 first-round draft pick John Ross. Even though the fastest player in the NFL somehow managed to haul in seven touchdown receptions in his second season in 2018, he only caught 21 total passes for a whopping 210 yards. That’s right. The man who ran a 4.22 40-yard dash averaged 10 yards per reception. His longest reception was 39 yards.
There were reported back in February that the Bengals were looking to move him via trade, but the team more or less denied those rumors. Could they still make a move? They would not be the first team—not even this offseason; not even at the wide receiver position—to deny interest in trading a player only to turn around and do so.
Such moves often happen when a regime change occurs, and the Bengals did have one this offseason, as they replaced longtime head coach Marvin Lewis in favor of the bright and shiny thirty-something Zac Taylor, who brought in almost wholesale, a new coaching staff that he handpicked himself.
Chances are that the report from February wasn’t based on nothing, and chances are whatever that something was is still a factor. So it wouldn’t exactly be a shock if he were to be traded at some point, even during the 2019 NFL Draft.
Really, it could depend heavily upon how Taylor and his coaching staff feel about what he can offer and what they can get out of him. That will be weighed against what they believe they can get in return for him versus what is available and obtainable to them in the draft.
The bottom line is this: they know right now that Ross is not a sure thing as a reliable option for the number three receiver role. With that in mind, they will not approach the draft as though they know they have a strong number three wide receiver.
If that is the case, then it almost has to put him in the equation for being bought by another team for the right price. Cincinnati doesn’t have much behind Green and Boyd, admittedly, but the former first-round pick might be more valuable to them in trade than on the field.
One thing they can’t do is cut him, because the entirety of his four-year rookie contract was guaranteed, including his base salaries in each year. He is due to count over $4.5 million against the cap this year, with all but a little over $2 million of that being in prorated signing bonus money.