The Cincinnati Bengals have been widely regarded as one of the most explosive and talented offenses in the NFL over the past several seasons. After all, the skill positions are loaded with first and second round draft picks and the offensive line is full of expensive veteran free agents. There is one position however that the team simply hasn’t put much emphasis on over the past few seasons and they have relied on bargain signings just to keep the roster stocked. That position is the hybrid tight end position.
Bengals Offense Puts Little Stock on the Tight End Position
Since the departure of 2013 first round pick Tyler Eifert in the 2019 offseason, Cincinnati simply hasn’t bothered investing in the tight end position. After Eifert, the team decided they would rely on 2015 fifth round pick C.J. Uzomah to be the focal point from the tight end position. Uzomah was certainly not a substantial threat down the field, he was a serviceable option until his contract expired in the 2022 offseason.
After Uzomah, the team picked up former first round pick Hayden Hurst as a value signing and the former Raven performed above expectations for Cincinnati. While he still wasn’t anywhere close to above average, Hurst was a reasonable check down option that gave superstar quarterback Joe Burrow a an outlet in case of emergency. The problem was the team only signed Hurst to a one year contract and his replacement ended up being far from acceptable.
Cincinnati’s 2023 Addition Ranked Amongst Worst Signings in 2023 Offseason
After Hurst departed last offseason, the team decided to go with former Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. While Hurst may not have been an elite contributor in the passing game, Smith’s total production of 18 receptions for 115 receiving yards in 9 games last season was simply atrocious. Smith finished the season with an abysmal Pro Football Focus (PFF) overall rating of 44.2 which ranked 69th in the NFL. All thee other tight ends on the Cincinnati roster finished with better ratings including Tanner Hudson whose 73.0 rating was good enough for 12th in the NFL.
Smith actually was so bad last season that his signing was voted the second worst move by a team in the 2023 offseason.
#NFL Fan’s Top 10 Votes Worst Moves of 2023
1. #Jets trade for Aaron Rodgers
2. #Bengals sign Irv Smith Jr.
3. #Browns trade for Za’Darius Smith
4. #Panthers fire Frank Reich
5. #Texans sign Robert Woods
6. #Jets hire Nathaniel Hackett
7. #Patriots sign JuJu Smith-Schuster… pic.twitter.com/YPvhHRuEJ4
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) January 27, 2024
The only move voted worse than the signing of Smith last offseason was the New York Jets highly publicized signing of Aaron Rodgers. Unlike Smith, Rodgers will still have an opportunity to show his value to his new team after he went down with an injury after only a few snaps with the Jets this season. While Rodgers can blame his voting on bad luck, Smith simply never produced for Cincinnati and the team will likely be going in a different direction this offseason at the tight end position.
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