CINCINNATI -- It was one of the more important plays of the Cincinnati Bengals' 2014 season.
When James Wright came down awkwardly after leaping high for a pivotal, drive-extending 30-yard first-down reception late in the Bengals' Week 13 win at Tampa Bay, few realized the catch would have an impact on 2015.
Nearly eight months to the day that Wright suffered a knee injury that kept him out the remainder of the 2014 season, the Bengals announced Tuesday they had released the second-year receiver under the waived/injured designation. If he clears waivers Wednesday as expected, he will revert to the Bengals' injured reserve, meaning his season will be over before it even began. He's the first player this season to go on the IR.
The injury came at the worst of moments for Wright, who was just beginning to become a factor. He caught just five passes his entire rookie year, but three of them came in that game against the Buccaneers. All three also were third-down conversions.
With Wright now out of the picture, where will the Bengals' receiver corps turn for help? That's a question the team will be working to figure out this week. Once Wright officially hits the IR, he won't count toward the Bengals' active roster, meaning they will have an extra receiver spot available.
From a depth standpoint, the Bengals aren't lacking in numbers at receiver. They come into training camp (which begins Friday) with now 10 healthy players at the position. But aside from the top three, A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, the Bengals are relatively thin in talent. They'll be spending this camp seeing if they can trust these players as much as they trust the top three:
Expect the Bengals to add one more receiver in the coming days through free agency. Bengals.com had reported earlier this offseason that there already was chatter among the team about doing that even before the extent of Wright's status for 2015 was known. The website also hinted Tuesday that Cincinnati would likely now turn to free agency to replace Wright.
Which free-agent veteran could join the names above in camp later this week? Here's a look at who still is available:
Reggie Wayne: The longtime Colts star might make for a nice addition to an already solid front end of the Bengals' pass-catching ranks. He caught 64 passes for 779 yards and two touchdowns last season. The 36-year-old would be a good veteran presence for a position group whose oldest player -- Tate -- is 27. The trick would be getting him to accept playing a more subdued, complementary role than he had grown accustomed to in Indianapolis.
Wes Welker: Concussion concerns have factored in the 34-year-old's inability to land a contract this offseason, but he fits the mold of what the Bengals would be looking for. He's quick, good in space and is an obvious option in the slot. The former Bronco and Patriot also has a long history of being on successful postseason teams.
James Jones: Fumbles were a concern last season for the 31-year-old who spent the season in Oakland. He had three. Prior to 2014, he was one of Green Bay's top passing options, catching 14 touchdown passes alone in 2012.
Dane Sanzenbacher: The Bengals like working with players who already know their system. Who better to turn to than a player spent the past three years in Cincinnati? He's not a No. 4 receiver, though.