Of the 13 unrestricted free agents (per overthecap.com) the Bengals have to decide on in the coming weeks, offensive tackle Jake Fisher may be the most perplexing.
The former second-round pick dealt with a plethora of injury issues and never developed under offensive line coaches Paul Alexander and Frank Pollack, but he’s just one of four offensive tackles from last year’s roster that are set to hit the market.
Now, it appears he no longer plans to be an offensive tackle. Per Ian Rapoport, Fisher is training this offseason to become a full-time tight end.
An interesting name to watch for free agency: #Bengals OT Jake Fisher is down to 285 pounds as he reinvents himself as a blocking tight end, I’m told. He’s been running routes with current NFL QBs in Cali this offseason. Teams are intrigued and wanting to work him out.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 2, 2019
When Fisher first started playing for the Bengals, he was an inline tight end as much as he was a tackle. He actually received four targets in his rookie season, catching one of them for 31 yards. In his second season, Fisher became the backup to Cedric Ogbuehi and started playing over him when he struggled late in the year, but his stunted development showed.
2017 was Fisher’s chance to prove himself a capable starter, but a heart issue caused his struggles to persist and he was eventually shut down for the year halfway through. During this timeframe, Fisher’s weight fluctuated down well below 300 pounds and by 2018, he had just 702 offensive snaps to his name.
It was far from a certainty that Fisher would make the roster last season. By the end of the preseason, he managed to stick around as Cordy Glenn’s backup at left tackle. He started just one game when Glenn was hurt and suffered an injury while filling in for Glenn. He would not play after that game.
Coming into the NFL, Fisher’s athleticism was what made him special. At 306 pounds, he was about as all-round of an athlete you could find at the position. By dropping about 20 pounds, Fisher can maximize the athleticism he still has at just 25 (soon to be 26) years old.
It should be noted that Fisher originally transitioned from tight end to offensive tackle when he got to college at Oregon. His experience blocking from an inline alignment should aid in his transition, but it’s a bold career move nonetheless.
If Fisher is committed to becoming a tight end, it’s hard to see him returning to Cincinnati. Fisher, Ogbuehi, Bobby Hart and Andre Smith are all barely worth a roster spot at their respective ages, but there was a case to retain Fisher as depth. It doesn’t seem like that’s in the cards now.
The offensive tackle situation for the Bengals should see some clarity later this month, but this likely closes the door on a return for Fisher.