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He Teases And Pleases. So, What To Do About Mohamed Sanu?

Jury is out on multi-threat's ability to succeed as a No. 2 wide receiver, but teams may covet his services in a weak free-agent class.

With free-agency looming in March, NFL teams are zeroing in on targets. Reports are beginning to surface indicating potential interest in Bengals unrestricted free agent wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.

Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports reported Wednesday that Sanu is a "prime target" and has "generated a fair amount of buzz within the organization" of the New York Giants. La Canfora speculates that the Giants are interested in both Sanu and New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.

"The Giants might not land either. And Wilkerson most likely will only be available via trade after getting hit with the franchise tag by the Jets," wrote La Canfora. "But these two names have generated a fair amount of buzz within the organization, sources said, as the franchise prepares for an offseason in which it aims to be active at the deep end of the free-agent pool."

La Canfora said both rank among a small number of players viewed in the most favorable terms by the team's brass. "Both would fill immediate needs, and both already have very strong ties to the greater New Jersey area and grew up Giants fans," La Canfora wrote. "They are prime targets, make no mistake, though their acumen among a widely suspect and pedestrian free-agent class makes them top candidates for numerous teams beyond Big Blue."

As La Canfora noted, the Giants have a lot of cap room, with money to spend, an ownership committed to ending a long non-playoff run following a pair of Super Bowl wins, not to mention a new coach.

"There are a multitude of other potential options at the receiver position, where the Giants are prioritizing finding a Robin to go with their Batman (Odell Beckham, Jr.), but few fit the bill as well as Sanu;" suggested La Canfora. "But with Victor Cruz's career in jeopardy and the Giants needing a presence in the slot and on the outside, Sanu ranks high for them. Adding Sanu at say, $5M a year, to compliment OBJ would help further open up an offense..."

Furthermore, Giants receiver Rueben Randle is headed to free agency, so the Giants do need to address the receiver position. But it remains unclear if Sanu, a 6-2, 210-pound athlete with myriad skills, can handle full-time duties as a No. 2 man. He's more of a No. 3 slot receiver, and has struggled to make a difference in a bigger role when injuries have pushed him up the depth chart. He posted career-high totals in the wake of injuries to others in 2014, hauling in 56 catches for 790 yards (14.1 average) with five touchdowns, but he also was among NFL leaders in dropped passes.

With everybody healthy in 2015, the former Rutgers jack-of-all-trades was the fifth man in the Bengals' pecking order with 33 receptions for 394 yards for 11.9 yards per catch and no touchdowns, all career lows with the exception of average since his rookie season. Also gone was some of the 2012 third-round draft choice's ability to produce on so-called gadget plays. He had 71 yards on 10 rushes (7.1 average) and scored both of his TDs on the ground, but he didn't throw a pass.

Sanu has a perfect 158.3 rating on five career pass attempts, all completions, two for touchdowns. His career passing totals stand at 5-for-5 for 177 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. He's the only player in NFL history with two or more TD passes, 150 or more  passing yards and zero incompletions. As a three-way threat in former Bengals' offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's wide-open scheme, he's the only receiver in team history to throw a touchdown pass, yet Jackson didn't seem to put much faith in Sanu in his final season in Cincinnati.

Speaking of interested parties, the Browns could have interest in Sanu, simply due to Jackson being the Browns' head coach, with play-calling duties. Jackson either knows too much about Sanu to be genuinely interested in re-acquiring his services, or he knows him well enough to realize that upside remains.

Sanu can be a tease. After five games in 2015, he had 14 catches for 230 yards (16.4 average). That put him on an early 16-game pace for 45 catches and 736 yards, which would have threatened his career highs of 2014 when he played well early and faded late. Sanu had 19 catches for 164 yards (8.6 average) over the final 11 games of 2015, and he was fading long before Andy Dalton got hurt.

Despite the inconsistencies in his game when it comes to his main gig of catching passes, it appears that the Bengals would prefer to keep Sanu. "...If you forced me into the chair ... the day free agency starts, I’d go after wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu and cornerback Adam Jones because they’re the hardest to replace..." wrote plugged-in Bengals.com reporter Geoff Hobson, who also suggested he'd keep safety Reggie Nelson and linebacker Vincent Rey if he were Bengals GM. "But that doesn’t mean I won’t try like crazy to also get guys back like safety George Iloka and rotational defensive linemen like Wallace Gilberry and Brandon Thompson."

"If it were me, I’d focus on the wide outs (as well as the corner) because while you may have a guy like little-used rookie Mario Alford to play the slot if Sanu leaves, you simply don’t know because he hasn’t played," Hobson continued. "And it would appear you have no one that can be a No. 2 if Jones leaves. Clearly the draft is going to be dictated by your own free agency. If they can’t re-sign both Joneses, you’d have to imagine cornerback and wide receiver would be priorities in the first couple of rounds. And those may be the priorities no matter if one or both re-sign."


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