There’s been clear intent regarding the Cincinnati Bengals’ tight end room: A purge.
Three of the four players that were on the roster Week 1 of last season are either still free agents, or on another club. Only Devin Asiasi remains behind recently-signed Irv Smith Jr.
Where does that leave free agents Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox?
The upcoming NFL Draft has a lot to do with their course of action, or inaction in this case. Rarely does a class of incoming rookies feature so many tight ends populating the top of the board. As many as four could go in the first round.
A class this deep also opens the door to the club double-dipping at the position. They did so in 2015, drafting Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah in the third and fifth rounds, respectively.
Two draft picks this year would put four players on the depth chart with good chances of making the opening roster.
Alternatively, two draft picks at the same position when you only have seven picks to work with may not be the best use of resources. Reaching for needs is never wise, but circumstances can create justifications.
Last year, the Bengals took safety Dax Hill in the first round and then saw an opportunity four rounds later. Tycen Anderson, another safety, was the highest-graded player on their board in the middle of the fifth round.
Instead of waiting to see if he’d fall to them, they traded up to secure a second safety in a draft that had them finishing with just six picks.
The board is what they’ll abide to, and that’s not changing, and with their board likely chock-full of tight ends, it doesn’t seem like the Bengals have much interest in bringing back either Sample or Wilcox at this time.
Re-signing at least one, however, would be met with a slight deal of praise.
Having one or the other to take offseason reps and compete for a spot is a better proposition than expecting both to occupy roster spots in an offense looking to get more explosive.
But their values both involve boosting the run game and blocking perimeter defenders, and there will always be room for those skillsets.
The reason why both are still available to be re-signed is because that’s the extent of their usefulness.
In another year without a promising crop of rookies overshadowing the veteran market, perhaps we would’ve seen the return of Sample or Wilcox by now.
That they’re still out on the market signals the team is attempting to completely rebuild the position with Smith and first-year players.
Adding youth typically means adding speed, and that’s certainly what the Bengals need at all skill position groups.
Smith provides that as he looks to capitalize on a one-year deal. Any tight end the Bengals draft will likely bring that as well.
And if the Draft doesn’t result in new tight ends, Sample and Wilcox will be waiting for their calls back to Cincinnati.