The Cincinnati Bengals were very thin at tight end in 2016 due to injury. The hope is that won’t be the case in 2017, which could be aided by a breakout season by third year tight end C.J. Uzomah.
Where does he stand on the current depth chart, and is his roster spot safe?
Weight: 265 pounds
Hometown: Suwanee, GA
Experience: Third-year player in 2017
Draft Status: Fifth round pick in 2015
Uzomah is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract. He is set to have a cap hit of $668,190 and a dead cap hit of $106,382 if waived, according to Spotrac. He is set to become a free agent in 2019.
Uzomah has been one of the pleasant surprises from the Bengals’ 2015 draft class. Not many draft gurus expected Uzomah to have his name called in that draft, as he was rated as an undrafted prospect. The Bengals liked what they saw in the 6'5", 264-pound athletic pass-catcher, even after spending a third-round pick on Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft earlier in the draft.
Uzomah had just 29 career receptions for 435 yards and seven scores during his four-year career with the Auburn Tigers. He was primarily a blocking tight end in Auburn's offense, which rarely featured tight ends, but he did catch six touchdowns during his final two collegiate seasons. The combination of blocking and being a red-zone threat made him an attractive option for the Bengals, and they’ve been rewarded for their faith in him.
After rarely seeing the field in 2015, Uzomah became more of a factor during the 2016 season. He racked up 16 catches for 187 yards during his first five games. That did come with Tyler Eifert sidelined with back and ankle injuries, as well as Kroft being sidelined for much of the preseason due to a knee injury and falling behind Uzomah. The former Tiger didn’t always have the surest of hands, but he was very good as a run-blocker and serviceable in pass protection. That helped him stay ahead of Kroft on the depth chart.
Once Eifert returned, Uzomah’s role lessened while he was also sidelined with a calf injury. He ended up missing five games and caught just nine passes the rest of the season, causing him to fall behind Eifert and Kroft on the depth chart.
The good news is Uzomah did have three catches on three targets for 13 yards and one touchdown in the team's Week 17 game against the Baltimore Ravens, which was also his first NFL score.
As of now, Uzomah is probably the second tight end on the depth chart ahead of Kroft and behind Eifert.
Uzomah is very likely to make the final roster, though he probably won’t get many targets as long as Eifert is healthy. Uzomah could earn a big role in the offense by continuing to improve on his blocking, an area he excelled at more than any Bengals tight end in 2016.
The Bengals will certainly need more help from the tight ends with Andrew Whitworth gone and Cedric Ogbuehi taking over the left side, while Jake Fisher is still growing into his right tackle spot. Having a solid blocker like Uzomah helping out could really make their lives easier, thus making Uzomah a valuable commodity on this Bengals roster.
Odds: 70 percent.