There’s still room to grow for one of the league’s best slot receiver, and there’s no question that this could be one of the most pivotal seasons for his career.
Expected to be a long-term option in the Queen City, the Bengals have added two high-profile receivers in the past two drafts. That will force Boyd to be at his best, and hopefully, the man associated with Big Levels continues to shine as the veteran in the corps.
Hometown: Clairton, PA
Experience: Entering his sixth season
After his initial rookie contract was up, Boyd signed on for four more seasons. The four-year deal was worth $43 million. This season, his base salary is coming in at $8 million. He also has a $1.4 million signing bonus. Boyd will carry a $9.8 million cap hit. Boyd’s annual salary ranks fifth on the roster with his contract not expiring till 2024.
Boyd earned his second-round draft pick by becoming and still holding the record for most receiving yards in Pittsburgh Panthers program history. It’s even more impressive considering he was there for just three seasons.
That skill set didn’t immediately transition to the NFL, but at the same time, Boyd came to the franchise at a time in which A.J. Green was still the heavy No. 1 receiver.
Managing over 600 yards as a rookie was a win. However, playing in ten games the following season, he dropped off, collecting under 250 yards. It was his third season in the NFL in which he exploded onto the scene, notching his first 1,000-yard season.
Boyd found his niche in the NFL, and that’s in the slot. Per PFF, he has the most yards in the slot since 2019 and the second most receptions of 15-plus yards. He put up over 1,000 in both 2018 and 2019. He was on pace for that last season as well but fell short after Joe Burrow went down with a torn ACL in Week 11.
Up until that point, Boyd was averaging 71 yards per game, but the Bengals' passing offensive took a drastic hit without the star rookie leading the way. That said, the connection was starting to be made, and the sky is the limit for Boyd this coming season.
Outlook for 2021
What can the Bengals realistically expect from Boyd this coming season?
For starters, we should be able to find out what kind of receiver he can be alongside elite talent. Boyd has had pressure put on him the last few seasons as Green’s aged out of much of his production. Higgins was a rookie last season.
Boyd produced a couple of 100-yard performances but was sporadic in his use and production. With a career-high 71.8 percent catch rate, Boyd saw an uptick in efficiency with Burrow throwing the ball.
Burrow looked mighty healthy in OTAs, and with him back to 100% for the start of the season, Boyd could have a career year in 2021. Rookie Ja’Marr Chase and second-year man Tee Higgins will undoubtedly get their targets, but Boyd could start the year off as the primary target for an offense that will be drastically underrated coming into the year. With a 6’4.5” wingspan, Boyd had a solid catch radius and was operating well out of the slot last season.
Chase and Higgins will come in and provide a deep threat which should keep safeties honest and open more use for Boyd in the middle of the field. In Andy Dalton’s final season, Boyd had 148 targets and was 10 receptions shy of 100.
That should be Boyd’s goal in 2021, and it’s one that could easily be accomplished, especially with the additional game.
Tyler Boyd won’t just make the roster in 2021, but he needs to be one of the team’s most vocal leaders. Despite being just 26, Boyd is among the more experienced players, especially among the receivers.
With Tee Higgins entering his second season and Ja’Marr Chase as a rookie, the Bengals won’t need just production from Boyd but also leadership. The ball should be shared quite a bit, and that could hurt his numbers.
If the team wins, there’s no denying Boyd should be just fine. Regardless, he’ll 100% be on the roster for this coming season.
Roster odds: 100%