What do the Cincinnati Bengals do with John Ross after this year?

After a roller-coaster start to John Ross’ career, what do the Cincinnati Bengals do with the talented wideout after this year?

John Ross has been one of the most interesting players on the Bengals roster since they selected him ninth overall in the 2017 NFL draft. The former Washington standout has since become a somewhat controversial name in Cincinnati, not for any off the field incidents but rather for his inability to stay on the field or produce on a consistent basis.

Of course, not all of the blame can be put squarely on Ross’ shoulders. He came into his rookie year at a disadvantage. It quickly became evident that the 40-yard-dash record holder had earned a spot in then-head coach Marvin Lewis’ doghouse, and news breaking that he had concealed an injury didn’t help matters either.

Lewis seemed hesitant to let the former Husky on the field from the start. He did get one carry on a reverse early in his rookie year but it led to a fumble. Ross would not be seen again for the rest of the season after that. His rookie campaign was a downward spiral from there. It felt like he was a victim of a tug of war between the coaching staff and lofty expectations. Not a productive environment for any young player, let alone a rookie.

Now on the flip side of that, Ross didn’t always seem to show full effort in the few snaps that he did get, however, it was clear that his confidence was shaken by the mishandling of the situation by the coaching staff.

After a rough first year, Ross’ career has been a roller coaster with more downs than ups. However, the ups have been pretty spectacular. The speed has been obvious but Ross has also shown a knack as a red zone threat with 7 touchdowns during the 2018 season. Then, he started the 2019 season off strong as well, leading the league in receiving yards over the first couple weeks of the season.

Then he got hurt, again. That’s where the problem is. It is obvious that Ross has a rare talent. Players with 4.22 speed are not just rare, they are practically non-existent. To say they don’t come along every day would be an understatement. However, without availability, any other ability doesn’t make much of a difference.

The difficult crossroad for John Ross and the Bengals

So here we are, going into the 2020 season at a crossroads. The Bengals understandably didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on Ross’ contract, making this a contract year. Now the question is, what happens after this year is over?

If he struggles, then it’s simple, you just move on. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, given his potential and draft position, but an action the front office will have to take.

But what if Ross breaks out this year? Then decisions become much more complicated. Granted, that would be a nice problem to have, but a difficult decision none the less.

Don’t forget that the Bengals have a contract decision to make on all-time great, A.J. Green, and they probably can’t pay both. Personally, I’m rooting for Ross to have a big year. It can only have a positive impact on the offense and, of course, Joe Burrow.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to health. If Ross can put together a complete season, then the production and numbers will come, and with big production comes big paydays.