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2018 Bengals position review: Tight ends

Although C.J. Uzomah stepped up as the starter in 2018, the unit could be completely different this year.

Cincinnati Bengals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

So much is unknown about the state of the Bengals’ tight ends.

For a handful of years, they’ve had a solid trio that have all incurred plenty of starting experience, but injuries have limited what we’ve seen from all three together. Now, all three of those players’ contracts are set to expire next week, and stability at the position is a major risk for Cincinnati.

Before potential turmoil takes place, let’s review what the Bengals had at tight end for the 2018 season.

Key players:

  • Tyler Eifert
  • C.J. Uzomah
  • Tyler Kroft

2019 potential free agents:

  • Tyler Eifert
  • C.J. Uzomah
  • Tyler Kroft
  • Matt Lengel

2018 Summary

Once again, Eifert’s season started out with promise and ended with injury, this time in the form of a broken ankle in Week 4. Uzomah stepped into Eifert’s role and was productive in his absence, but Uzomah is not the offensive centerpiece that Eifert can be. Kroft contributed as well, but is a better blocker than receiver. His season was cut short a few weeks after Eifert went down thanks to a knee injury.

Lengel was brought in right around when Kroft went down and played the second-most snaps for the team. He was primarily used as a blocker and had limited exposure as a receiver. He’s a restricted free agent and could see a return to Cincinnati due to his cost-effectiveness (the original round tender is $2.025 million)

2019 Outlook and Need

With Eifert, Uzomah, and Kroft on the verge of entering free agency, there could be a big change at the tight end position for the Bengals in 2019. The Bengals brought Eifert back on a one-year deal in 2018, hoping the Pro Bowler could stay healthy, but that plan failed. His durability cannot be relied on, which makes it unlikely the Bengals will invest in him any further.

Although Uzomah and Kroft are not as talented as Eifert, they may be good enough for what the new Bengals offense will require. The Rams offense centered around running back Todd Gurley and wide receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp. Their tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett are effective blockers who contribute minimally in the pass game.

The Bengals also have Mason Schreck, a preseason star that has been lost to injury in his first two seasons (sound familiar?). Schreck has the skills and athleticism to develop into an excellent all-around player and could potentially be the team’s No. 1 tight end if he can avoid injury and fumbles, but that seems further away entering his third year.

Aside from Schreck, Jordan Franks is an interesting name to remember when training camp begins. Originally an H-back, Franks saw time as an inline tight end when depth was hard to come by towards the end of the year. He has natural athleticism and after the catch ability that can earn him a roster spot for the second year in a row.

The Bengals may look to acquire a tight end in free agency of the draft, but they could bring back Uzomah and Kroft and be just fine. It is doubtful that they will spend their first-round pick on the position, but they may look to add a tight end on day two.