Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency: Which Tight Ends Could Be Fits?

The Cincinnati Bengals don't have any tight ends under contract for 2024, but there are some intriguing options available in free agency.

CINCINNATI — If the Cincinnati Bengals were to call in all of their players under contract for position group meetings, tight ends coach James Casey would find himself sitting in a room full of empty chairs.

Drew Sample, Tanner Hudson, Irv Smith Jr., and Mitch Wilcox are all free agents. Three of the four could be back in 2024 (Smith’s chances are 0.1%).

Free Agent Tight Ends the Bengals Could Target

But even if Sample, Hudson, and Wilcox all re-sign, the Bengals still need to upgrade. And because last year’s approach proved just how little they value the position — they made Smith a scrap-heap signing two weeks after free agency began and refused to draft one despite the obvious need — free agency would be the best path.

Even if the Bengals sign a tight end, they still could – should – draft one. But given their other needs and the fact that they have drafted just four tight ends since Tyler Eifert in 2013 and just two before the fifth round, it probably won’t be with a premium pick.

Let’s take a look at some of the best possible fits in free agency.

Mike Gesicki, New England Patriots

The 6-foot-6 Gesicki is a red-zone weapon who is coming off his least productive year since his rookie season due mostly to reduced playing time in a platoon with Hunter Henry.

Since entering the league in 2018 as a second-round pick, Gesicki ranks 13th in receptions (260) and 12th in receiving yards (2,861).

 

And Hudson, Sample, and Wilcox are mostly one-dimensional — Pro Football Focus ranked Gesicki as the eighth-best blocking tight end in 2023.

He doesn’t have a market value listed on Spotrac, but he made $4.5 million last year and should be closer to $3 million in 2024.

Gesicki also could line up as a slot receiver, as he did at times in Miami, and address the Bengals’ need there.

Hunter Henry, New England Patriots

A year older than Gesicki, Henry had 42 catches, 419 yards, and six touchdowns while platooning in 2023. And every other year of his career looks similar, as he’s among the consistent tight ends in the game.

Since entering the league in 2018, Henry has 38 touchdown receptions. Only Travis Kecle and Mark Andrews have more in that time.

 

He might be out of the Bengals’ price range with a Spotrac market value of a one-year, $7.5 million deal. But Henry had an even higher PFF blocking grade than Gesicki, ranking fifth among tight ends.

Noah Fant, Seattle Seahawks

Among tight ends with at least 30 receptions last year, Fant ranked third with 12.9 yards per catch. Only George Kittle and Isaiah Likely were more explosive.

PFF ranked Fant as the 13th-best blocking tight end, and the 2019 first-round pick had just one drop on 43 targets last year. Among tight ends with at least 250 targets since 2019, Fant ranks ninth with 14 dops (Gesicki is tied for first with just eight, while Henry is seventh with 12).

Fant made $6.8 million last year on his fifth-year option. He doesn’t have a market value listed on Spotrac, but his 2023 stats of 32 catches, 414 yards, and no touchdowns don’t seem likely to draw huge offers.

Colby Parkinson, Seattle Seahawks

A fourth-round pick in 2020, Parkinson has just 57 catches in four seasons, but it’s been tough to get on the field with Fant and Will Dissly also playing big roles in Seattle.

MORE: Which Offensive Free Agents Could Cincinnati Bengals Target in 2024?

This will be a good test of how accurate Spotrac’s market values are, as the site surprisingly has Parkinson listed as four years, $26.7 million. The Bengals obviously aren’t paying anywhere close to that. And it doesn’t feel as though many other teams would, either.

Getting Parkinson on a one-year, prove-it deal if the market craters would be the way to go.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Philadelphia Eagles

He had a couple of productive years with the Broncos but was a non-factor in Philadelphia last year. The 2020 fourth-round pick would be a cheap, low-risk signing the Bengals could pair with another free agent tight end to help fill out the room if Sample or Hudson move on.

Miss football? The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, boss. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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