The Cincinnati Bengals made a big investment in a wide receiver, but it's probably not the one you expected to hear about before 2019 started, as they've locked down last year's breakout wide receiver Tyler Boyd on an eye-popping slot receiver contract.
Boyd was a second-round pick by the Bengals out of Pittsburgh in the 2016 NFL Draft and has produced at a much higher level than either Crowder or Humphries after busting out for a 76-catch, 1,008-yard season with seven touchdowns last season. Boyd previously totaled 828 receiving yards in his first two seasons, on young receivers in the NFL. Patience, people.
For comparison's sake, Humphries had 76 catches for just 816 yards last year.
Boyd was entering the final year of his contract and is expected to play under a much more pass-friendly offense. This deal could look like a steal for the Bengals if Boyd tops 1,000 receiving yards again this season.
Notable from his performance last year, which earned him a grade as a top-five slot receiver by Pro Football Focus, was Boyd's performance in big spots. Per PFF, on "money downs" (third and fourth), he caught 20 of 36 targets for 14 first downs and two touchdowns.
Additionally, Boyd ranked behind only Tyreek Hill in yards per route run out of the slot and was eighth in passer rating when targeted (113.9) from the slot in 2018. A quick reminder that being a "slot receiver" in the modern NFL is not a bad thing: Hill, Adam Thielen, Keenan Allen and JuJu Smith-Schuster are the other four names on the PFF list with Boyd.
All of that after becoming a focal point of the Bengals' passing game with A.J. Green battling injuries yet again and Jeff Driskel seeing significant snaps for Cincy down the stretch of the 2018 season.
Speaking of Green, he should now become the focal point for Bengals buzz this offseason. The former top-five pick is heading into the final year of his own contract and he's at a weird spot. One of the best receivers in Bengals history, Green has not been a superstar the last few years.
He's now 30 years old and has averaged 912 yards the last three years while managing to play 16 games just once over that span. Will the Bengals be willing to break the bank for an aging wideout this offseason? Will Green take a below--market deal to secure his long-term future in Cincy? Or will both sides play chicken and leave Green entering 2019 with a serious financial chip on his shoulder?
There's probably a bridge deal to be had, but things will be complicated with a bunch of other receivers -- including Julio Jones, who was taken in the same draft as Green -- looking for new contracts.