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Brandon LaFell, Cincinnati Bengals Agree to 2-Year Contract

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Brandon LaFell #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals points toward the sideline before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Wide receiver Brandon LaFell is set to return to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 after agreeing to a new deal with the team. 

LaFell's agents, Neil S. Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, announced LaFell agreed to re-sign with the Bengals. Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported it's a two-year deal worth $10 million, "all in base and bonuses." 

Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer noted the Bengals grew to appreciate what LaFell brought to the organization last season:

Paul Dehner Jr. @pauldehnerjr

Can't tell you how many times coaches raved about what LaFell brought to the room. And he was still productive, improved as year went on.

The 30-year-old veteran spent 2016 with the Bengals on a one-year deal. With A.J. Green missing six games due to injury, he emerged as quarterback Andy Dalton's top target down the stretch.

LaFell finished the season with 64 receptions for 862 yards and six touchdowns after failing to find the end zone as a member of the New England Patriots in 2015.

The former LSU standout was a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2010, but his breakout season didn't come until he joined the Pats in 2014.

As quarterback Tom Brady's best outside receiving threat, LaFell set career highs with 74 grabs for 953 yards and seven touchdowns in helping the Patriots win the Super Bowl. 

A down year in 2015 hurt his value, but LaFell managed to repair it in 2016 by making significant improvements, according to John Gatta of Pro Football Focus:

John Gatta @PFF_John

Most improved WRs by @PFF Grade (2015-16) 1. Taylor Gabriel 2. Brandon LaFell 3. Dontrelle Inman 4. Quincy Enunwa 5. Davante Adams

He appeared to be a great fit in Cincinnati's offense, which led to LaFell expressing his desire to return in 2017.

Per Owczarski, LaFell believed he could truly come into his own in a second season with the Bengals: "I'd definitely like to be back but it's out of my hands, man. Whatever happens, happens. But hopefully I'll be able to come back because I feel like in the second year within the offense with Andy [Dalton], I think I'll be even better."

Cincinnati figured to have some competition for LaFell's services, though, after the second-best season of his career.

Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated labeled LaFell as a potential free-agent gem in a strong year for wide receivers:

Andy Benoit @Andy_Benoit

Brandon LaFell a hidden solid value for someone in free agency. Outstanding skinny-post route runner.

Although LaFell may not rival Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in terms of name recognition or body of work, he has proven to be a productive player in the right situation.

LaFell isn't a true No. 1 receiver, but he can be a quality complement, which is all he'll need to be for the Bengals provided Green remains healthy next season.

If LaFell manages to turn in a performance similar to what he did in 2016, then he, Green and the emerging Tyler Boyd have a chance to form one of the best receiving corps in the entire NFL.

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