clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bengals Offseason Positional Outlook: Tight Ends

We continue our offseason positional outlook by taking a look at a position group that enters the 2015 offseason clouded with the most uncertainty and is likely to see the most change from 2014 to 2015. Good or bad, there is a high likelihood that 67% of the Bengals tight ends in 2015 will be new to the team.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Depth Chart

TE1a: Jermaine Gresham

TE1b: Tyler Eifert

TE3: Alex Smith

PS/TE2: Kevin Brock

2014 Recap:

With Hue Jackson taking over the offense in 2014, hopes were high for the tight ends, especially second year tight end Tyler Eifert. Unfortunately, any plan Hue had for Eifert and a dual tight end offense was derailed three series into the season when Eifert's elbow decided to bend the wrong direction. With Eifert and Marvin Jones out, Gresham had the opportunity to step up, but in my opinion, he failed to do so. While Gresham's five touchdowns and 62 receptions ranked second on the team and his 460 yards ranked third, given the injuries the Bengals had, Gresham needed to produce at a much higher level. His 7.4 YPA were more than only Rex Burkhead (7.0) and Kevin Brock (4.2) and though he didn't lose any fumbles, his fumble problems persisted (3).

2015 Outlook:

TE1a: Jermaine Gresham Gresham enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent and I would be shocked if the Bengals bring him back for a number of reasons: 1) Gresham has had some decent numbers, but all-in-all, has been disappointing and never lived up to his expectations. 2) Gresham's team commitment came into question this year when reports suggested that the organization thought he would play in Cleveland and he did not. The situation lead to an awkward public spat with Dave Lapham and showed some real concerns with maturity. 3) Reports have also suggested there are some coaches that want nothing to do with Gresham. Gresham has had a decent career with the Bengals but I think a change of scenery would be best for both parties. Gresham will likely get some decent contract offers and the Bengals would be wise not to match them.

TE1b: Tyler Eifert

The Bengals had huge plans for Eifert when they took him in the first round of the 2013 draft, but he had little impact as a rookie and lasted just three series in his second year. If healthy - a big if with Eifert at this point - Eifert has the size, hands and skill set of some of the best receiving tight ends in the game. Regardless, Eifert is not a blocking tight end, so healthy or not, the Bengals need a good blocking tight end on the roster.

TE3: Alex Smith

Smith is a free agent in 2015 and at 33-years-old and coming off a season ending biceps injury, it is doubtful the Bengals re-sign him. He is a solid blocker, but even when healthy in 2013, Smith really had no role on the offense (3 receptions, 12 yards, 1 touchdown).

PS: Kevin Brock

Brock is already signed for 2015, so he will at least be competing for a position. He is known as a blocking tight end but even a blocking tight end should be able to accumulate more than five receptions for 21 yards on the season. To put that in perspective, Brock had four more catches, 3 more receiving yards and 1 less receiving touchdown than Andy Dalton...yes, the quarterback. Brock can be an insurance plan, but the Bengals need to still find a blocking tight end who can still contribute in the passing game as well.

FB/TE: Ryan Hewitt

You could not have asked for more from a rookie fullback than what you got out of Hewitt in 2014. But we didn't see much of Hewitt in the passing game until the end of the year. Hewitt can contribute as a tight end, but I think the Bengals want his focus to be at fullback.

Outside Competition

2015 Positional Free Agency Outlook

I believe the Bengals will look for a solid tight end in free agency, but he must also be able to block. For that reason, I believe guys like Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron will not be on the Bengals' radar. Who I do find interesting is Charles Clay of the Miami Dolphins. Clay is a converted fullback and would be a solid blocking tight end for the Bengals, with further possible contributions in the passing game. Clay would be one of my top three tight end targets this offseason.

2015 Positional Draft Outlook

I believe the Bengals will take a tight end in the draft, but not in the first three picks. Round four is where I see the Bengals starting to look at tight ends, and while I don't see a guy like Clive Walford (Miami) staying on the board that long, if he does, he could be a target for the Bengals around round four. Later in the draft, I could see the Bengals taking a look at a guy like Jeff Heuerman from Ohio State. Heuerman was used more as a blocker at Ohio State, something the Bengals love, but he has the ability to be a pass-catcher as well. Ohio State's offense was not designed for a pass catching tight end and Heuerman could be a late round steal.

General Roster Makeup: 3 on the 53-man roster; 1 on the practice squad

2015 Roster Prediction:

TEs (3 + Hewitt): Eifert, Veteran Free Agent, Rookie draft pick + Hewitt

PS (1): Rookie tight end

2015 Positional Stock Outlook: A big question mark

No position on the Bengals' roster is going to look more different in 2015 than the tight end position. And if Gresham does indeed walk, the Bengals will have a lot of unproven commodities at tight end. If Eifert returns healthy and the Bengals land a solid free agent like Clay, the tight end position could be a strength in 2015. However, if Eifert's injuries continue and the Bengals don't land a solid free agent, the tight end position could become a big liability in 2015.