Irv Smith Jr. is shown during the Bengals game Sunday against the Steelers at PayCor Stadium. Photo by Michael Mitchell

By Conrad Clowers

Herald Sports Writer

The last two seasons have seen the starting tight end for the Bengals bolt for greener pastures. After the Super Bowl Bengals starting tight end CJ Uzomah signed with the New York Jets. He was ultimately replaced by Hayden Hurst. The team didn鈥檛 miss a beat with Uzomah leaving. Hurst would go on to have his biggest season as a tight end. He would have 414 yards receiving on 52 catches with 2 touchdowns. He too would leave for a better financial position.

When shopping for a new tight end, the Bengals would settle on Irv Smith Jr. The move was a risky one. Smith had all world talent. His one drawback was that he was injury prone. Smith had played his previous three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. His best season came in 2020 when the former Alabama tight end caught 30 passes for 365 yards. In 2021, Smith’s season was cut short with a torn meniscus. In 2022, an ankle injury sent Smith to the injured list.

Signing Smith Jr. was going to be a risky move. It was a move the Bengals were willing to make. Thus far this season Smith has 16 receptions for 97 yards and 1 touchdown. It has been a challenging season for the Bengals. Quarterback Joe Burrow, who spent much of the season injured when playing, has been declared out for the season with a torn ligament in his hand. Smith Jr., who has shown flashes of a dominant tight end, had problems with drops earlier in the season. The former Viking has come on strong to be more consistent.

Smith Jr. has shared tight end duties with Tanner Hudson and Drew Sample in 2023. The three have combined to give the Bengals tight end spot some stability. While at Alabama, Smith Jr. was thought to be one of the best tight ends in college football. His 44 catches for 710 yards for Nick Saban鈥檚 Crimson Tide brought him recognition and draft stock. Smith was chosen in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft for the Minnesota Vikings.

As the Bengals finish up a challenging season, they hope to finish up strong. A healthy and productive聽 Irv Smith would definitely make that a doable task.

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