Bengals: Should They Consider Kellen Winslow Jr.?

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Nov 5, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft (81) celebrates a touchdown by tight end Tyler Eifert (85) in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft (81) celebrates a touchdown by tight end Tyler Eifert (85) in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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Kellen Winslow Jr. has announced that he is attempting to make an NFL comeback. Should the Bengals sign him?

The Cincinnati Bengals feature one of the best tight ends in the league in Tyler Eifert. Not only is Eifert a star, the Bengals also have two promising young players in Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah. Although the position looks to be set for the future, would Cincinnati ever give former Pro Bowler Kellen Winslow Jr. a shot?

Kellen Winslow Jr. is of course the son of Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow of the Chargers. While the Hall-of-Famer’s son hasn’t had the same type of career as his father, he has still been productive in his own right. The 32-year-old has announced that he’s attempting to make an NFL comeback and is certainly able to do so, given that he is young enough and that his body is still in shape from his cycling training.

With Winslow making it known that he wants to return to football, it’s time to ask: Would Cincinnati give him a chance? Cincinnati is certainly familiar with Winslow Jr. since he was a former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2004. Winslow came into the league as a Miami product, and of course, it didn’t take long for Winslow Jr. to become one of the best tight ends in the league.

From 2006 to 2011, Winslow Jr. was one of the best targets in all of football. During this time, he had five seasons with at least 730 yards, as well as a season in which he went over 1,000 yards. To put that in perspective, Tyler Eifert, one of the NFL’s top tight ends, only had 615 yards this season.

Winslow Jr. last played for the New York Jets, which was his 5th team in 10 seasons. He was suspended for violating league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances that ended his tenure in the NFL. While there is no forgone conclusion as to if he’ll really make it back into the league, I must say I am a bit intrigued. Comebacks don’t always mean a guaranteed roster spot. For example, look at Tim Tebow, JaMarcus Russell–even Randy Moss‘ comeback didn’t last.

However, I always believe in upgrading a position even if that means a third string tight end. Winslow Jr. should not be looking for a big contract or even starting position. His demands shouldn’t be high, because a 32-year-old player is usually on the back end of his career. Just look at Vernon Davis as the prime example. The 31 year old can barely get on the field in Denver. Although another reason why Winslow Jr.  won’t demand much is because that is the same reason why he got booted out of Seattle.

Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft should certainly be the focus point of the group going forward, but they need a mentor. It would be an incredible luxury to have a veteran who can teach these guys some things, especially a former Pro Bowler. Therefore, I am suggesting Cincinnati should throw a bone to Winslow Jr. After all, Eifert is only in his third year, which happens to be his first as a true starter. Of course, Eifert dominated this year, but he hasn’t even hit his full stride.  Eifert and Kroft could certainly learn from a player of Winslow’s caliber.

Unfortunately though, there’s a downside to signing Winslow–signing the veteran would have a direct impact on C.J. Uzomah. Coming out of Auburn, Uzomah didn’t seem like a true tight end in Cincinnati; he was more of a pass-catcher than blocker. Yet, Uzomah had trouble finding the field even when Eifert was out with injuries. I do have to wonder whether Cincinnati just wanted to redshirt him as they usually do rookies or if he just wasn’t ready to play. I feel as though it was more of the latter.

By no way am I saying get rid of the promising tight end, no. What I am saying, is to move him to the practice squad to give him more time to develop and sign Winslow Jr. to help mentor the young group. Cincinnati has now lost Terrell Watson and James Wilder Jr. to other teams. These two running backs deserved a spot on the practice squad. However, with these players in different places it would make it easier on Cincinnati to retain players such as Uzomah.

Chances are the Bengals won’t look to far into this. Marvin Lewis does not like signing older free agents to play instead of young promising rookies. This is why he never really looked into the Randy Moss comeback. If anything, the fans are excited about Winslow coming back and if the Bengals really wanted to, they could always just heighten the Ohio rivalry with the signing. Regardless, wherever Winslow is signed, good luck to him on his comeback.

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