3 pending free agents the Bengals should let walk in 2024

Time to say good-bye to these three players.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Bengals have 19 total free agents hitting the market in the 2024 offseason. Fourteen of those are UFAs, meaning they can sign where they want. We know about the big names like Tee Higgins and D.J. Reader, who fans hope will come back to the Queen City.

What about the free agents who the Bengals should let walk and explore new options with another team? Those will be the players we'll discuss in this article. I should note that I won't be mentioning some of the lesser-known players, such as Joe Bachie or Max Scharping. These will be players who either start or have started during the 2023 season.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Chidobe Awuzie

The Bengals were smart to bring in Awuzie in the 2021 offseason because he played incredibly well for them during his first year and a half in the Queen City. That being said, all good things come to an end and that's the case for Awuzie's tenure in Cincinnati.

Not only do the Bengals already appear to have a solid replacement for Awuzie in Cam Taylor-Britt, who has been a star this season, but Awuzie has not played as well. He tore his ACL midway through the 2022 season and since returning from injury, he hasn't looked like the same guy. He's also approaching his 29th birthday and we know the Bengals don't like to pay guys who are close to or over the age of 30.

Tyler Boyd

While fans were busy discussing when contract extensions would get done for Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson last offseason, one name that was consistently left out of those discussions was Boyd. The Bengals spent a second-round pick on Boyd back in 2016 and for a few years, he was one of the few bright spots on the team.

When the Bengals added Ja'Marr Chase in 2021, Boyd's role in the offense decreased and this year has been a tough one for him. His stats are still respectable for a WR3 (55 catches for 499 yards and two touchdowns) but he had that massive drop in Week 10 against the Texans that would have been the game-winner and then the atrocious interception in Week 13.

Even without those two brutal moments, the writing has been on the wall for Boyd since last offseason. There's a reason he wasn't grouped in with the extension candidates and it's because the Bengals aren't going to pay someone approaching 30, which Boyd is.

Boyd gave a lot to this organization but it's time to let him seek an opportunity elsewhere.

Irv Smith Jr.

The Bengals needed a tight end after Hayden Hurst signed with the Panthers in the offseason, so they went with Smith, an oft-injured, underperforming former second-round pick by the Vikings in 2019. Smith's injuries haven't been the storyline for him in Cincinnati (though he did miss time at the beginning of the season).

The problem for Smith has been that he just hasn't been good enough in this offense. Through 10 games, Smith has just 16 catches for 97 yards and one touchdown and that is not the production of a starting tight end. To put that into perspective, Tanner Hudson has appeared in seven games and has 26 catches for 228 yards. He appears to be the starting tight end moving forward (as he should be) and Smith has barely been playing.

Sometimes teams swing and miss on free agents and that was the case for Smith, who has not been the next tight end to benefit from playing with Joe Burrow. If he can't thrive in Cincinnati, it's safe to say he's not starting material. He's an easy player to let walk in the offseason.

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