Based on the injuries that accumulated on offense for the Bengals last season, it would be a wise offseason strategy to stack that side of the ball in free agency and the NFL Draft. One position that seems to stir up a hot-button debate topic is tight end.
On paper, the team seems relatively set at the spot. Tyler Eifert is a top five player at the position in the NFL when healthy and the team saw some decent growth out of C.J. Uzomah in 2016. The team also invested a third round pick in 2015 on Tyler Kroft, so the talent seems present on the roster.
However, Eifert is using his second straight offseason to recover from a major procedure (this time on his back), while Kroft has seemingly taken a backseat to his fifth round counterpart in Uzomah on the depth chart. And, while the latter made a few nice plays during the eight games Eifert missed, a very noticeable dip in the 2016 passing game existed as the year wore on.
Dion Sims has been with the Miami Dolphins since 2013. While his stats don’t jump off the page, he’s been a valuable member of their offense since his rookie year. Though his contract is up, he may stay with the Dolphins, but if he gets a better deal from another possible contender, Sims could bolt.
College: Michigan State
Years Pro: Entering fifth season
Age: 25 (26 when 2017 season starts)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 271 pounds
Rookie Deal: Four years, $2.63 million; $467,552 signing bonus (guaranteed)
Why it makes sense for the Bengals:
A well-rounded player: Sims might not be a star, but he just seems to do every facet of a tight end’s job at an above-average level. While sharing Miami’s pass-catching duties with Jordan Cameron, Sims still managed eight touchdown catches during the past four years—including four in 2016. He’s also a big guy who knows how to block, which is not necessarily a strength of the current Bengals group. Sims is entering the prime of his career and seems to be improving with each passing season.
An affordable insurance plan: The hope is that Eifert will be healthy when the season starts, but as we all know by now with the Bengals, things can easily change. Spotrac currently projects Sims as a guy who should be making roughly $4 million a year, which seems a little high for an already-crowded group, but he would bring production and steadiness to a unit that needs it.
Look at the Patriots: New England has become the shining beacon on how to run an NFL franchise. When you look at how they operate, one critical facet is to not be satisfied with having one star at a position. Patriots fans can relate to Cincinnati’s frustrations with Eifert, as the uber-talented Rob Gronkowski has fallen prey to injuries throughout his career. Even with the league’s best tight end on the roster, the Patriots still signed another solid tight end in Martellus Bennett, which worked out pretty spectacularly for New England.
Why it doesn’t make sense for the Bengals:
A crowded group and stunting others’ growth: One of the frustrating traits of Marvin Lewis’ time as Bengals head coach is his preference to play veterans over promising youngsters. Signing Sims would likely spell the release and/or benching of guys like Uzomah or Kroft just three years into their respective careers.
Have the Bengals figured out how to use multiple tight ends yet? For most of the franchise’s history, the team has struggled to find ways to create big plays for multiple tight ends. They have partially figured out the formula with Eifert, particularly in the red zone, but with their criminal underuse of h-back Ryan Hewitt last year and so many others in the past, would Sims and Eifert be effective when on the field at the same time?
Perceived higher needs at other spots: Most will refute the notion of the Bengals needing another tight end and there is merit to the argument. If the Bengals actually plan to spend considerable money this offseason, does spending money on Sims make sense, especially with so many important internal free agents looking for big contracts?