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Irv Smith chose Bengals over a reunion with his college QB; feels they have ‘best chance to win Super Bowl’

The newly acquired tight end is putting his eggs in the Joe Burrow basket!

Irv Smith Jr., the new tight end the Cincinnati Bengals acquired in free agency Monday night, had options when it came to which team he wanted to play for in 2023.

In fact, he had to choose between the Bengals and a reunion with his college quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, now with the Miami Dolphins. The two played together with the Alabama Crimson Tide and also handed Burrow one of his few blowout losses in a 29-0 rout in 2018. Smith Jr. caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown in that game.

Now, according to’s Geoff Hobson, the tight end believes his best chance to win is with Joe Burrow.

“I felt like Cincinnati had the best chance to win a Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s a great organization. Great coaching staff. Zac Taylor was very adamant about me coming to the team knowing what I can do to help the offense. And the proof is in the pudding at the tight end position.”

Smith Jr. was able to get in touch with his new quarterback on Tuesday morning and said Burrow was excited to have him on the team and that he would love the culture and not to be afraid to reach out.

Smith Jr. also got advice from his father, Irv Smith Sr., who played in 95 NFL games at the same position, catching 183 passes for 1788 and 15 touchdowns.

“When it came down to picking a team, he was all Cincinnati,” Smith Jr. said. “Just in terms of what we can do with my skill set in that offense that is already so explosive with the weapons and Coach Callahan and Zac Taylor and what they’ve done, the proof is in the pudding.”

Smith Jr. also had a previous relationship with another Bengals player, the team’s top wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase. The two played against each other in the New Orleans’ Catholic League and later worked out together in the offseason.

“Having a relationship with Ja’Marr, getting to play with Joe Burrow and those guys speaks for itself,” Smith Jr. said. “I’ve watched a lot of Bengals games over the years. I wanted to be a part of this opportunity to chase a ring and be a part of something special. I feel like I’m almost the missing piece to get us that Super Bowl.”

The Bengals lost Hayden Hurst to the Carolina Panthers in free agency and the only other tight end on the roster with any game experience was Devin Asiasi. After signing a left tackle, safety, and cornerback, tight end was one of the last holes left to address on the Bengals depth chart. Smith Jr. only played in eight games in 2022, catching 25 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and nine of his 25 catches went for first downs.

Smith Jr. isn’t as big as C.J. Uzomah and Hurst are, standing at 6-2 and weighing in at 240 pounds, but he was the fourth-fastest tight end coming out of college in 2019, and he has the athleticism and speed to stretch the field. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell told Hobson during the league's spring meeting, Smith Jr. is great with the ball in his hands in space and will rarely get brought down by the first tackler.

The former Viking said he still feels his best days are ahead of him.

“I feel like I’m still developing,” he said. “I’m only 24 years old. I feel like the sky’s the limit in terms of what I can do. I feel like I’ve proven some things, but there’s a lot more on the table I want to show, and this is the perfect opportunity to showcase that.”

If recent history can be a guide, Smith Jr. could find himself signing a multi-year contract after his prove-it deal with the Bengals. Uzomah signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the New York Jets after the 2021 season, and Hurst signed a three-year, $21.75 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, including $13 million guaranteed, this offseason.

The Bengals could still look to select a tight end in the first few rounds of the upcoming draft, considering how deep this draft class is at the position and the depth on the Bengals roster.