Mike Brown is like a Saturday morning yard sale aficionado. The Cincinnati Bengals owner loves nothing more than to sift through racks of what others have discarded, searching for the diamond in the rough that only needs to be polished.
But for Brown, it’s not the rare Beatles album or piece of Depression glass he is seeking, but rather a former first-rounder who has never quite lived up to his draft position or a former star on the downside of his career.
The list of bargain pickups is almost astonishing. Cedric Benson and Kevin Hardy worked out great, but Matt Jones and Antonio Bryant not so much. Sam Adams, Roy Williams and Laveraneus Coles each had their moments. Richmond Webb was a borderline Hall of Famer, only not with the Bengals. Adam “Pacman” Jones, Jason Allen and Taylor Mays are currently on the roster hoping to resurrect their careers.
The latest reclamation project to be associated with the Bengals is that of wide receiver Braylon Edwards, and for anyone who has followed the team even from a distance over the past two decades can understand why. Edwards fits the mold perfectly. He’s a former first-rounder with first-round talent. He has had severe trouble with the law. And he’s bounced from team to team. Thanks to the last two he will come cheap.
But Edwards fits with the Bengals for another reason. Simply put, the Bengals need wide receivers. A.J. Green looks like he could emerge as one of the best—if not the best—receiver in the league in the next year or two, but after him the cupboard is thin.
Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell both left via free agency during the offseason and Brandon Tate is the most veteran member of the group. Jordan Shipley is coming off knee surgery, Andrew Hawkins is a former Canadian Football League player and Mohammad Sanu and Marvin Jones are both rookies who have been on the roster less than two weeks.
What Edwards would bring to the team is a veteran presence and a deep ball threat to help alleviate what surely will be stifling double teams that Green will see all season. He will give young quarterback Andy Dalton another threat in the red zone and give the young Bengal receivers a chance to grow up and mature without the pressure of having to perform right away.
But Edwards also brings the baggage that comes from failed expectations and several arrests. His deep threat ability is at times overshadowed by his numerous dropped passes, including a league-high 23 in 2008. Last year with the San Francisco 49ers, he only caught 15 passes and did not have a touchdown.
The decision on whether to sign Edwards or not will come down to several factors, not the least of which is whether the Bengals believe that they have enough in the receiving corps to make a return trip to the playoffs. If so, the team will take a pass. If not, he may become the newest Bengal reclamation project.
What would I do? Personally, I would take a pass on Edwards. Between Green, Shipley, tight end Jermaine Gresham and newly signed running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis, the Bengals have plenty of targets for young Dalton to zero in on. Let the young guys play and continue the youth movement that led the Bengals back to the playoffs last season.
But the real question is what will the Bengals do, and can Mike Brown resist adding another yard sale piece to his mantle?