The Cincinnati Bengals can’t replace Ja’Marr Chase — no team could.
But what the Bengals can do while the star wideout sits out an indefinite amount of time with a hip injury is add a player or two to help fill the void.
Otherwise, the team will merely try to make it work with a combination of Mike Thomas and Trent Taylor while defenses throw all the attention at Tee Higgins.
Luckily for the Bengals, there are free agents worth mentioning in this conversation and the NFL trade deadline looms next week (4 p.m. et Tuesday). Here’s a look at some rentals for the Bengals to consider while Chase recovers.
Brandin Cooks, Texans
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Cooks has had an underwhelming start to the season with the 1-4-1 Texans. He’s put up 281 yards with just one touchdown. But in each of the prior two seasons he had 1,000-plus yards with 12 total touchdowns. Cooks might be a cheap trade target, but only because the Texans want out of his massive contract, so while it’s something to monitor, a deal would have to come with a reworked contract.
Kendrick Bourne, Patriots
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Bourne has been the subject of trade rumors and he might make some sense given an affordable contract that only runs through next season. He put up 800 yards and five scores last season, but he’s only been targeted 14 times over six games this year. He’d make for an affordable pickup and interesting depth addition.
Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
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Certainly not happening, but at this point it’s worth mentioning all of the big names currently rumored to be on the trade block. Jeudy was the 15th pick in 2020 and has dramatically underperformed alongside the rest of the Broncos offense so far. But he’s still got that massive upside and technically one year left on an affordable rookie deal. If the Broncos sell low for whatever reason, it would be a major low-risk investment.
Elijah Moore, Jets
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Moore scored five times as a rookie this year but things have deteriorated to the point he requested a trade already. He was a 2021 second-round pick sporting huge upside that has gone predictably stifled in New York. While he’s not really a Chase-like presence who can dominate outside in the way the Bengals need, it would be really hard to complain about sweeping him up in an affordable deal and adding him to the offense.
Terrace Marshall, Panthers
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Would the Panthers trade with a team they’re about to play? Would they deal a guy coaches have said will see an uptick of work soon? Maybe not, but Marshall is another fun LSU product from the 2021 draft who at 6’2″ with positional versatility would be a more-than-ideal way to beef up the fourth wideout spot.
Phillip Dorsett, Texans
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Let’s loop back to the Texans real quick and chat about Dorsett. The 29-year-old deep threat only saw playing time recently after an injury to somebody in front of him. He’d be a cheap add and could come in and start with the ones while sharing duties all over the field.
Marvin Jones, Jaguars
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How cool would this be? Old friend Marvin Jones is stuck on the 2-5 Jaguars but still his capable outside-receiver self at the age of 32. He’s also on an expiring deal and likely a cheap trade target, making him one of the most reliable rental options out there. He’d help Tyler Boyd stay in the slot and, in fact, might be the perfect idea while Chase is out.
Dede Westbrook, free agent
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The Bengals have worked out Westbrook in the past, so there’s some credibility here. He’s still just 28 and a bigger depth target worth rostering. But he’s also been passed up by multiple teams since the summer, so it might not be much of an immediate relief sort of thing while Chase is out.
Auden Tate, Eagles practice squad
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Remember Tate? He was oddly considered a starting candidate in Atlanta before getting passed up and leaving. He’s stuck on the Eagles’ practice squad now. That means the Bengals could poach him and get him back in an offense he somewhat already knows while taking snaps on the outside. Not a perfect solution, but certainly an interesting idea.
Denzel Mims, Jets
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Back to the Jets. Mims, a 2020 second-round pick, had some trade rumblings around his name and has played in just one game this year. He’s a massive (6’3″) target with untapped potential who might just be able to help right away. He’d double as potential immediate help with some intriguing long-term depth.
The other option: Practice squad
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The Bengals could always keep things in house and call somebody up from the practice squad. Trenton Irwin is the unattractive option compared to Kwamie Lassiter II, the electric undrafted player who turned some heads over the summer. Neither are amazing solutions, but neither are free agents or trades who don’t know the offense and would need time to adapt. Chase’s return timetable, after all, is still a rather large question mark.