Do the Cincinnati Bengals Have Their No. 2 WR in Armon Binns?

Matt GrayContributor IMarch 6, 2012

CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 24:  Armon Binns #80 of the Cincinnati Bearcats catches a touchdown pass during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals at Nippert Stadium on October 24, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jerome Simpson's recent guilty plea has confirmed what has long been expected: the Cincinnati Bengals need a new No. 2 wide receiver.

There are several big names littered across the free-agent market, and with one week to go until the floodgates open, Marvin Lewis and Jay Gruden are likely to approach a number of them.

However, despite substantial cap room, history dictates that the Bengals are not big free-agency spenders. Unless Mike Brown has had a significant change of heart, it will continue to be so.

The next stop is the draft. With a handful of positions in need of an upgrade or simply depth, wide receiver is not a spot that Cincy would have anticipated having to address. 

Andy Dalton's struggles in the passing game highlighted the need for a solid second receiver, but with so many other priorities afoot, drafting one high in 2012 seems unlikely.

The other question is whether the Bengals can address the problem from within. 

Andre Caldwell was less than stellar when given the opportunity in 2011, and is unlikely to regain his position in the slot with Jordan Shipley and Andrew Hawkins on the roster, so he could be headed for a Cincinnati exit in 2012.

Ryan Whalen proved to be a favourite target of Andrew Luck at Stanford, and has been fairly solid in the extremely limited time he has seen on field as a Bengal. Whether he can be an effective starter in the NFL remains to be seen, but it is reasonable to suggest that he will get a fair shake in training camp this summer.

The other name flying under the radar is that of former University of Cincinnati Bearcat Armon Binns.

Binns, an undrafted free agent previously with the Jacksonville Jaguars, fell victim to final roster cuts, ending up on the Bengals' practice squad shortly after. 

He failed to see any playing time in 2011, residing primarily on the Bengals' scout team where he impressed in his imitations of top receivers from around the league.

He's rangy at 6'3", having an inch on Simpson and 15 lbs more weight to throw around. He would certainly give some of Dalton's more wayward passes an extra chance of being caught if nothing else.

He may not initially bring the standard that a veteran might, but neither will he bring the hefty price tag or a demand to be thrown to either—something the Bengals are reminded of by the disaster that was "T.Ocho."

Gruden commented on Binns, telling Geoff Hobson of that he had "no doubt" that the young WR would be in the mix for the job when the 2012 season comes around.

But the Bengals OC did not stop there. He went on to tell Hobson: 

"I think he can do a lot more than maybe people anticipated him doing, if he shows up in shape and in the right frame of mind, I foresee him making a major impact with our offense next year...He got into great shape and made a ton of plays. Then we got him some reps in our offense and he's really been a great surprise for us. We're hoping the momentum carries into this season."

These comments came after Dan Hoard of the Bengals Radio Network got similar vibes from Marvin Lewis, who told of coaches pushing him to play Binns late in the 2011 season.

In his senior year at the University of Cincinnati, Binns proved an important weapon for QB Zac Colleros, hauling in 75 receptions for 1,101 yards and 10 TDs en route to a 12-0 season.

There is really no telling how things will proceed for Binns at this stage, but it seems as though he will get his opportunity this offseason.

After the revelation that was Victor Cruz in 2011, there has never been a better time to be a receiver in the NFL. Cruz may be a one-in-a-thousand-type deal, but his success has at the very least pushed teams to give all of their receivers a longer look.