Instant analysis after Bengals sign free agent TE Irv Smith Jr.
The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t attack the tight end position as aggressively as some might have predicted when free agency opened.
But they got incredible value late Monday night/Tuesday morning with Irv Smith Jr. signing on the dotted line.
Smith, a second-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2019, inked a one-year deal with the team and could very well be in a position for a major role in the offense next season.
A major recruit at Alabama, Smith never massively broke through with the Vikings while sparring with the likes of Kyle Rudolph for reps. His smaller frame (6’2″, 240 pounds) played a role in that, but he’s still scored nine touchdowns, five of those coming in his career-best year of 2020 when he averaged 12.2 yards per catch.
Notably, Smith hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year and surgery to repair a torn meniscus cost him his entire 2021 season.
Still, Smith is another former high draft pick like cornerback Sidney Jones who could realize some untapped potential with the Bengals, especially as a third or fourth option in the passing attack with Joe Burrow.
While fans might’ve wanted to see an even bigger name earlier in free agency, this is a nice way for the team to get the ball rolling after losing Hayden Hurst and with Mitchell Wilcox and Drew Sample still on the market.
Ideally, the Bengals will bring back at least one of those guys to provide depth behind Smith while also keeping the position in play for the draft — as early as Round 1.
At this stage of free agency, it’s hard to complain about adding a 24-year-old player with four seasons under his belt who fits with the program and could be the latest at the position to break out in Cincinnati — all while not impacting the draft possibilities.
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