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Jermaine Gresham and the Bengals: A Symbiotic Relationship in 2015?

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Nov 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end

Jermaine Gresham

(84) fumbles the football as he is hit by New Orleans Saints defensive backs Corey White (24) and A.J. Davis (20) in the first quarter of their game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Gresham recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of Thursday’s 2015 NFL Draft, many Bengals fans realize the team needs another tight end to supplement Tyler Eifert. I have a radical name which will serve to be unpopular with most of Bengaldom, yet a name that could provide the team with what they are looking for: Jermaine Gresham.

The vilified figure has been languishing in free agency, with his value dropping due to a herniated disk. At one point, the Raiders, Browns and Bills were all interested in signing the former Bengal. Those opportunities dried up, and he is still looking for a new team in 2015.

Gresham did not endear himself to Bengals fans, in part for a variety of reasons: costly penalties, dropped passes and lack of production. As fans, we remember the low moments of players, such as Gresham’s near disaster play in New Orleans this past season.

When you actually break down the numbers, however, Gresham is a much better player than he gets credit for. His dropped passes percentage was 2.5%, which pales in comparison to other wide receivers. Kelvin Benjamin, for example, who is regarded as a young, hot prospect in the league had a 6.9% drop percentage. Gresham’s production over the past five years has totaled 2,725 yards with 24 touchdowns.

Nov 23, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) performs a swim move against Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Gresham has been especially effective as a blocker for the Bengals as well. Tyler Eifert has not been on the field enough to see his blocking capabilities, while Gresham helped Giovanni Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead rush for 1,874 yards last year.

The other criticism levied against Gresham is his attitude/will to play for Bengals when he is hurt. During the playoff game in Indianapolis last season, Gresham was a late scratch due to injury. Without A.J. Green and Gresham, the Bengals had no weapons to hurt the Colts. This point is not to insinuate that with Gresham the Bengals would have won, but his absence certainly didn’t help the cause.

My response to the criticisms of Gresham’s attitude refers to his current situation. Gresham has no one ready to hand him a large, multi-year deal. He is well aware of his market value and will be looking to prove his worth for a new deal next season. If the Bengals were able to sign Gresham to a one-year, $1 million deal, he would have sufficient motivation to play hard. He would want to prove his market value, while the Bengals would receive a motivated tight end which the team has rarely seen in the past five years.

When looking at the 2015 NFL Draft, there aren’t any names that will jump out as immediate upgrades for the Bengals. The top tight ends will not be a focus for the Bengals in earlier rounds, leaving the team options such as Blake Bell of Oklahoma and Jeff Heuerman of Ohio State. While both rookies have been effective when run blocking in college, neither would be a significant upgrade to Gresham. The dilemma for the Bengals is, should they go with a newly motivated, known commodity (Gresham) or a young rookie? My money would be on the new, and hopefully improved, Jermaine Gresham. Jermaine, please don’t fumble in the first series of 2015, or I might have to edit my take.

Next: Final Bengals Seven-Round Mock Draft

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