The Cincinnati Bengals’ tight end room has been a revolving door for quarterback Joe Burrow as of late. The start of this offseason assured us we would see a new starter at the position after Hayden Hurst landed with the Carolina Panthers.
It took a while, but Cincinnati ultimately ended up landing Irv Smith Jr. to a very affordable one-year deal that could very well continue the cycle of Burrow getting his tight end paid.
However, there has been some doubt as to whether Smith should be propped up as the next weapon to be added to Cincinnati’s fantastic list of skill players. That is because the deal was for less than $2 million, and the Bengals linked to many of the early tight ends.
Head coach Zac Taylor hushed any rumbling for now during this week’s meeting with the media.
“Yeah, we think he (Smith) can come in and play that role for us,” Taylor said. “There’s always competition in that room, but that’s the vision that we have for Irv is to come in there and fill that role that Hayden had for us.”
Hurst’s role wasn’t an extensive one, but he was ready to make a big play when necessary. He made his plays when the defense left him in one-on-one matchups, and he was a willing blocker in the running game. Smith can absolutely do those things.
The bigger question is probably whether a highly drafted tight end can come in and start over Smith. Rookie tight ends tend to need some time to acclimate, so Smith’s presence is quite the luxury for a young player coming in.
It also wouldn’t benefit to:
A. Tell people they are planning on drafting a player to start early.
B. Unnecessarily upset the veteran you just signed without having someone in the building currently that can do what he does.
Taylor played this down the line perfectly. He compliments Smith and talks about the role he sees him fitting into, but he leaves that door open talking about how there is always competition.
At the end of the day, if Smith gets outplayed by a rookie, it will be hard for a change not to be made. The more likely outcome is bringing along a rookie slowly behind Smith while this team is still one of the best in the entire NFL.