Irv Smith Jr.'s role will depend on what Bengals do in 2023 NFL Draft

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

The Cincinnati Bengals signed Irv Smith Jr. in free agency after they lost Hayden Hurst to the Panthers. This is now the second year in a row where the Bengals have had to turn to free agency to find their starting tight end and while it worked out for them last year with Hurst, Smith is a different player.

For starters, Smith has battled injuries throughout his career. That's the reason why we're seeing so many mock drafts still connecting Cincinnati to a tight end because there's a solid chance that Smith misses time since that's been a common trend with him during his pro career.

The signing was a low-risk, high-reward one because yes, Smith struggles to stay healthy but if he does, the Bengals have their starting tight end. He has the incentive to ball out this year too because he's only on a one-year deal.

That being said, a lot of what we can expect to see from Smith depends on what Cincinnati ends up doing in the draft later this month.

Irv Smith Jr.'s role for the Bengals isn't set in stone yet.

Smith is in a weird situation because he could end up being the Bengals' starting tight end or, depending on what the team does in the draft, he could be relegated to a backup role. That's why Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus listed Smith as someone who stands to gain or lose the most in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Smith could be a massive winner if the Bengals don't spend one of their top picks on a tight end because that means he'll be the starter. If the team does draft a tight end on the first two days, however, Smith's job as the starting tight end will be in jeopardy for sure.

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The Bengals signed Smith because they didn't want to have to spend their first-round pick on a tight end. He gives them insurance at the position but at the same time, his injury concerns could still lead the team to add a tight end because if he goes down, Drew Sample is the next man up. That wouldn't be ideal.