On Friday, Tom Pelissero reported that the Cincinnati Bengals would not be tendering tight end Mitchell Wilcox. He'll now be able to sign with whoever he wants in free agency, which kicks off on Monday with the legal tampering period.
Pelissero even noted in his tweet what Wilcox did in limited opportunities and said that he'd have interest in free agency. He's not wrong.
This was a perplexing move from Cincinnati, especially with their lack of tight ends currently on the roster. The three names currently on their tight end depth chart as of this writing are Devin Asiasi, Nick Bowers, and Tanner Hudson. Fans might know Asiasi's name but the other two are not household names by any means.
Wilcox played well when Hurst missed time last year and he was a restricted free agent, so it's weird that they didn't bring him back.
What is the Bengals plan now that Mitchell Wilcox isn't returning for sure?
With Hayden Hurst, Drew Sample, and now Wilcox all hitting free agency, one would have to think the team is committed to drafting a tight end on either Day 1 or 2 regardless of what happens. Maybe they're confident that they can re-sign Hurst in free agency but he might be too rich for their blood in free agency, especially with the lack of true game-changers at tight end.
The team could still bring Wilcox back despite not tendering him. They did the same with Stanley Morgan last offseason so he's not for sure gone, at least not yet.
If Wilcox leaves, however, even if Hurst comes back, the Bengals feel like a team that is going to dedicate themselves to finding a tight end they love in the draft. Maybe that's Michael Mayer, maybe it's Dalton Kincaid, or even Sam LaPorta. No matter how much fans have talked themselves out of drafting a tight end, it feels more likely that it's going to happen with this recent move.