Simpson still could face suspension

Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson pleaded not guilty Monday to one count of trafficking marijuana in excess of eight ounces. His next hearing is set for Feb. 20, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

While a felony punishable by one to five years in jail, there are indications that Simpson’s cooperation, and the fact it’s his first offense, could result in probation rather than incarceration, according to the team's website. That isn't the only discipline that Simpson is facing.

If found guilty, Simpson could get suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy. That would shatter interest in Simpson heading into free agency.

There has been speculation that the Bengals would re-sign Simpson if he came cheaply, but Cincinnati has to go in a different direction with the No. 2 wide receiver position. While Simpson can make highlight reel plays -- like the flip into the end zone -- his poor route-running is a nagging problem for young quarterbacks like Andy Dalton. The Bengals need a dependable veteran to start opposite A.J. Green.