Bengals Roster: Realistic expectations for Irv Smith Jr. in 2023

Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84) reacts late
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84) reacts late / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals found themselves needing a starting tight end this offseason after Hayden Hurst signed with the Carolina Panthers. He was the latest tight end to benefit from catching passes from Joe Burrow. Now it'll be Irv Smith Jr.'s turn to benefit from a year of playing ball with Burrow.

Smith, a second-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 NFL Draft, hasn't lived up to his Day 2 draft stock but a lot of that can be blamed on injuries. He's only played in every regular-season game just once in his career and that came during his rookie year when he was a backup option.

In 2020, Smith missed three games, he was sidelined for the entire 2021 season and only played in eight games in 2022. In other words, Smith is definitely injury-prone, which makes this signing a little risky.

What should Bengals fans expect from Irv Smith Jr. in 2023?

If Smith remains healthy, he should be a solid weapon for Burrow. We've seen just how much Burrow relies on his tight ends on crucial downs and if Smith is out there in those key moments, Burrow will surely be looking his way.

With Smith only being signed for a year, this is his chance to be the latest tight end to benefit from playing with Burrow. If he has the kind of season that Hurst and CJ Uzomah had in 2022 and 2021 respectively, a massive pay day will be in his future. He'll have to remain healthy for that to happen, though.

A healthy Smith gives the Bengals a solid pass-catching tight end who can help take their offense to the next level. His best year saw him compile 30 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns but that was in 2020 when he missed three games.

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Smith can absolutely smash his career-best numbers in the 2023 season but it all comes down to if he can avoid injuries.