Bengals should have tried harder to sign Tyler Conklin

Tyler Conklin #83 of the Minnesota Vikings. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Tyler Conklin #83 of the Minnesota Vikings. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals missed their best chance at signing C.J. Uzomah’s replacement, Tyler Conklin, in free agency and still have a gaping hole at the tight end position.

The Bengals were never going to match what the New York Jets offered Uzomah, but on Wednesday, the Jets swooped in and nabbed another one of Cincy’s tight end targets: Tyler Conklin.

New York signed the former Minnesota Vikings player to a three-year, $21 million dollar deal which admittedly is on the pricier side for a mid-tier tight end. Compared to Uzomah, Conklin’s age and 2021 breakout season arguably make him worth the money.

In his first three years in the league, Conklin barely made a dent in the Vikings’ offense and started just six games. In 2021, though, Conklin enjoyed a huge boost in usage and recorded 61 catches for 593 yards and three touchdowns in 15 starts.

Cincinnati Bengals could have found their starting TE in Tyler Conklin

It seems the money of the Jets — rather than the potential glory of the Bengals — ultimately swayed Conklin, and it’s hard to compete against a team with loads of cap space like the New York Jets.

At 26-years-old, Conklin is two years younger than Uzomah and doesn’t share Uzomah’s inconsistent playing history. Conklin’s boom this past season under the arm of Kirk Cousins suggests he can be even more successful under Joe Burrow, serving as a sneaky dependable pass-catcher when opponents double-team the other Bengals receivers.

A relatively young and productive tight end like Conklin would have been an ideal fit in Cincy’s offense, and it’s a shame the two parties couldn’t agree on the financials.

Gerald Everett and Robert Tonyan present the next best options, and the Bengals could even entertain a trade for Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts (perhaps giving up Auden Tate in return?). In a free agent market that’s quickly drying up of tight ends, Cincinnati still needs an established pass-catcher at the position and should act fast.

3 free agents still available that the Bengals could sign. dark. Next

Desperation doesn’t look good for business, but at the same time, “slow and steady” rarely wins the free agent race.