Irv Smith Jr.: 5 things to know about the Cincinnati Bengals' new tight end
It's been almost two weeks since tight end Hayden Hurst left the Bengals for the Carolina Panthers, and some Cincinnati fans were starting to wonder whether the team would have a veteran tight end as the 2023 NFL draft approaches.
It appears the Bengals will have Irv Smith Jr. fill that void. Smith comes to Cincinnati after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the past two of which were cut short by injuries.
Smith played in eight games last season for Minnesota, finishing with 25 catches for 182 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He has 858 yards on 91 receptions with nine TDs over 37 career games, and his first-ever playoff TD came in a 31-24 loss to the New York Giants in January.
Among items of interest related to the Bengals' new tight end:
Irv Smith Jr. chose the Bengals over other offers.
NFL reporter Peter Schrager of Fox Sports and NFL Network, who first reported that Smith is signing with the Bengals, tweeted late Monday that Smith chose Cincinnati over multiple offers because of an opportunity to win with one of the most talented offenses in the NFL.
The Minnesota Vikings selected Smith shortly before the Bengals drafted Drew Sample.
Smith went to the Vikings in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, with the 50th overall pick. The Bengals selected Sample, who is now a free agent, two picks later. The Tennessee Titans drafted A.J. Brown, who finished fourth in the NFL last season (his first with the Philadelphia Eagles) with 1,496 receiving yards, with the pick between Smith and Sample. And the Eagles selected running back Miles Sanders, who finished fifth in the NFL last season with 1,269 rushing yards, one pick after Sample.
Also drafted in the second round in 2019: the Niners' Deebo Samuel (36th), the Packers' Elgton Jenkins (44th), former Chiefs (now Jets) receiver Mecole Hardman (56th) and the Seahawks' DK Metcalf. Current Bengals offensive lineman Max Scharping was selected 55th by the Texans.
The Bengals needed a tight end, and the best one left on the board was probably Irv Smith Jr.
He’s a 2019 2nd round pick from Alabama with size who’s an athletic route runner. Smith is still only 24. He has lined up at a bunch of different spots. He’s fast. https://t.co/88YYlRoAhu
— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) March 28, 2023
Smith spent his first couple of NFL seasons with former Cincinnati high school star Kyle Rudolph.
Former Elder High School standout Kyle Rudolph's last two seasons as a tight end with the Minnesota Vikings were Smith's first two seasons with the team, and Rudolph got more snaps than Smith in each of those seasons. But after the Vikings released Rudolph in March 2021, Smith was expected to get more targets during the following season. But he suffered a season-ending injury during Minnesota's final preseason game that year.
Smith starred in an Alabama-LSU game Joe Burrow likely would just as soon forget.
In Nov. 2018, Smith and the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide visited Baton Rouge to take on Joe Burrow and the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers.
It wasn't exactly the SEC showdown between top-5 teams that many expected, with Bama routing LSU, 29-0.
Smith caught one of two Tua Tagovailoa touchdown passes and finished with four catches for 64 yards, second only to teammate Jerry Jeudy on a star-studded team with several future NFL stars.
Burrow was 18-of-35 for 184 yards with an interception, and was sacked five times.
Smith's dad also played tight end in the NFL.
After starring at Notre Dame, Irv Smith Sr. played for the New Orleans Saints, the Niners and the Cleveland Browns. A first-round pick in the 1993 draft, Smith Sr. had 1,788 receiving yards and 183 catches with 15 touchdowns over seven NFL seasons.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Irv Smith Jr.: 5 things to know about the Cincinnati Bengals tight end