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Should the Bengals Trade Jermaine Gresham?

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Oct 12, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) runs with the ball in front of Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report from Ian Rapoport of the NFL network, the Bengals may be assessing their options when it comes to tight end Jermaine Gresham.

The NFL’s trade deadline is this coming Tuesday (October 28) at 4:00pm ET.  This gives the Bengals, and any potential suitors, a week’s worth of time to work out a deal for the talented yet seemingly flawed tight end.  These types of scenarios are bound to present themselves when a team accumulates the amount of talent the Bengals have; they can’t afford everyone.  Yet the Bengals have dealt with a lot of injuries this year, which would make any team question whether or not they ought to “thin” their team out any further.

The obvious place to start with this consideration is who the team currently has and if Gresham’s presence is really necessary.  Tyler Eifert’s presence is clearly the driving force here as the Bengals wanted to feature him in the offense prior to his elbow dislocation.  Eifert is due to rejoin the team in a couple of weeks, but the Bengals should consider his health.  Before Eifert’s elbow injury in Week One, he had already dealt with a back injury during the preseason.  This isn’t to say that Eifert will automatically get hurt once more, but it is something to consider.

Beyond Eifert, the Bengals possess promising rookie Ryan Hewitt.  As a versatile player and capable blocker, Hewitt may have proven enough to the coaches that they’d be willing to line him up more often at tight end.  But regardless of any promise, Hewitt is still a rookie and isn’t nearly as gifted as Gresham.

Also to consider here is the Bengals’ goal to run the ball while preferring to spread the ball around within the passing game.  Even without Marvin Jones’ presence this year, the Bengals don’t lack for options (when A.J. Green comes back).  Yet we shouldn’t expect to see a fully healthy Green this year according to the receiver himself.

"“It’s probably not gonna be 100 percent, but I hope it’s just manageable.  I can get through the season and play at a high level.”"

With receiving options quickly falling by the wayside, is moving on from a veteran option the best idea?

Within the running game, Gresham may be the team’s most capable blocker at tight end.

Having a guy on the field who is capable of blocking this way while also presenting a receiving threat is big to an offense.  It makes plays more difficult to diagnose while also giving Andy Dalton more flexibility with his pre-snap audibles.  And while there’s no doubt Gresham has made some “bonehead” plays in the past, he’s really cut down on his penalties the year.  This only adds to his current value.  Moving on from Gresham on-the-field won’t be as easy as many may think.

The next consideration is what the Bengals will receive in return for Jermaine Gresham.  To the dismay of many, he will not command a ton in a trade; a sixth round pick would likely be the most Gresham would be worth.  There are several reasons for this logic.

First, potential trade partners will know the Bengals don’t “need” Gresham.  Because of this, potential trade partners will likely assume the Bengals would settle for less.  Second, regardless of the reason, his stats have dropped in recent years.  And finally, Jermaine Gresham is in a contract year, so there’s no guarantee a trade partner would keep him beyond 2015.  Admittedly, if there was a time to try and move him, it would be following a two game stretch that’s seen the tight end prove some of his merit with 16 catches for 116 yards.  But this isn’t likely to increase his value.  Rather it simply gets potential trade partners to even notice his presence once more.

The Bengals will also need to assess what they can do with such a trade.  Assuming Gresham returns a sixth round pick, these picks best usage often is to help teams move up in the middle rounds to secure a player they like.  But it’s unlikely the Bengals would find a great tight end in the later rounds.

Also to consider is, if the Bengals gained a pick in 2015, that would give them ten for the year (the other two come from compensatory picks for Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins).  Ten rookies are hard to keep, especially when you have seven picks presumably before the fifth round.  The Bengals could try to trade for a pick in a future draft, which could increase the round of the pick gained, but these types of picks can vary greatly as teams improve from year-to-year.  Is Gresham’s value really so low that this type of pick should satisfy the Bengals?  We are talking about a physically gifted tight end who’s a solid blocker and lacks an injury history.

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Finally there’s the ever-present money factor.  Hopefully the Bengals have done their due diligence and broached the topic of an extension with Gresham already to give them an idea of what it’ll take to re-sign him.  Gresham’s current deal is worth just over $2.8 million/year.  This makes Gresham the 21st highest paid tight end in the league.  Will Gresham settle for a similar payday going forward?  That’s unlikely.  But the Bengals could let him test free agency the way they did Rey Maualuga.

In today’s NFL, rookies come much cheaper than veterans.  Gresham’s salary range could be worth it to a team that lacks a tight end, but with an entire draft potentially between Gresham and a new contract, could his value drop?  This is also unlikely as he is only 26 years old and is still talented regardless of his struggles.

So should the Bengals continue to try to form the tight end duo they had in mind, but at a higher salary?  Or should they cut the cord and move on to a younger tight end who might present equal production at a cheaper cost?  Are the Bengals willing to use a Day One or Two pick on this type of tight end?  And are they willing to take a late round pick for a player who is capable of big numbers?

It’s a difficult decision for a team that is currently flailing.  Making such a trade could send signals to the Bengals players that the team is looking more to the future than to the present; it’s not as if Gresham presents a workplace issue the way Percy Harvin did.  This would be the wrong message to send to a team who should be in the playoffs at year’s end.  The Bengals have seven days to decide what to do with Jermaine Gresham.  If it were up to you, how would you handle Jermaine Gresham’s future?  Let us know below.

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