Losing C.J. Uzomah is a massive hit to Bengals’ morale

C.J. Uzomah #87 of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
C.J. Uzomah #87 of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals lost tight end C.J. Uzomah to the New York Jets in free agency, and more than anything else, Uzomah’s spirit will be missed.

On Monday, Uzomah agreed to a three-year, $24 million contract with the New York Jets in what could be considered a sneaky good deal for the Jets. The Bengals were never going to give Uzomah that much money, and even though Uzomah will go from playing for a Super Bowl contender to a bottom feeder team, he seems satisfied with his decision. No regrets, for now.

Cincy don’t regret letting Uzomah go, either, but the team will miss his locker room presence the most — with Uzomah leaving for the East Coast, the team vibes simply won’t be the same in 2022.

Ever since Uzomah was drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round in 2015, the 28-year-old tight end has spent his entire career in Cincinnati. He wasn’t a very consistent player in the early years of his career, but this past season he recorded career-highs in several categories partly due to Joe Burrow’s dominant quarterback play.

Cincinnati Bengals will miss C.J. Uzomah’s heart and spirit in 2022

In 2021, Uzomah caught 49 passes for 493 yards and five touchdowns, though under the unproven arm of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson he may not find as much success in the AFC East.

Nonetheless, the Jets were in desperate need of a solid veteran tight end for 2022, and Uzomah fits the bill. He’s left Cincy with quite a few fond memories from ripping off his leg brace at a Super Bowl rally to shamelessly proclaiming his love for Disney songs (some of those songs hit hard).

Throughout the Bengals’ Super Bowl run, Uzomah became a fan-favorite not necessarily because of his talent and production, but because of the love and passion he injected into the team. If Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Trey Hendrickson, and others supplied the brain and the brawn, Uzomah was, unequivocally, the heart.

His fierce, competitive spirit will leave a gaping hole in the Bengals’ locker room this season and force another player to step into his “hype-man” role.

We’d imagine Uzomah had wanted to stay with the Bengals but also wanted a contract Cincy couldn’t afford, not after the team sunk millions of dollars in its offensive line.

The Bengals may look for Uzomah’s cheaper replacement in free agency (Gerald Everett and O.J. Howard serve as reasonable targets) or go down the draft route.

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In any case, this is no time to mourn losses. The Bengals knew there was always a chance Uzomah would sign with another team this offseason, and they no doubt will thank Uzomah for the blood, sweat, and tears he’s given to the franchise these past seven years.

Pay your respects, then move on.