Why the Bengals may miss Tyler Boyd more than expected

Boyd signed with the Titans in free agency.
Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Now that Tee Higgins has signed his franchise tender, the focus shifts to when Ja’Marr Chase will get a new deal. Yet, we can’t help but think that the Cincinnati Bengals might miss the veteran play and leadership of Tyler Boyd to help with this transitional period while also aiding in the team’s success in 2024.

There are still available options that could fit that idea. Unfortunately, the perfect candidate to fill that role is now doing so in Tennessee. And the Bengals might miss Boyd more than they realize.

Why the Bengals might miss Boyd

Higgins is likely to go the way of Jessie Bates last year. The talented receiver can play under the tag and become a free agent in 2025. Chase's incoming massive deal is part of why Higgins does not have the new contract he desires. Chase's deal likely will be equal to, if not greater than, the one Justin Jefferson received from the Vikings. This financial reality is also part of why Boyd is now with the Titans.

Boyd is often underestimated and overlooked. The Cincinnati Bengals were frequently mentioned as having one of, if not the best, trios of wide receivers in the NFL. However, when people speak of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Chase and Higgins are often evoked, while Boyd is left off that distinguished list.

Thought of by some as a first-rounder, the Bengals selected the star Pitt Panther with the 55th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He was an integral part of Cincinnati’s team from that point on until this offseason.

Boyd led the 2018 team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns and was the lone offensive bright spot in an otherwise miserable 2019 season when he once again recorded team highs in receptions (90), yards (1,046), and receiving touchdowns (5). It was the second consecutive season the underrated wideout surpassed 1,000 receiving yards. He followed that up by pacing the team in receptions in 2020, Joe Burrow’s rookie campaign. 

More recently, Boyd, not Higgins, finished second in receptions and yards in the 2023 season. Boyd was the only Cincinnati receiver who played in all 17 games last year. And amongst the star trio, Boyd’s 68.4% catch percentage finished second to Chase’s 69% and ahead of Higgins’ 55.3%.

Boyd was never a problem as far as team chemistry was concerned. He was the first, second, and, more recently, third option for the Bengals. Throughout his tenure, he never complained that he was at one point the number one option now regulated to playing slot and the number three role for the team. His secret to handling that was to be unselfish.

When speaking recently with Sirius XM, Boyd stated, “Coming here with Ridley and Hop, I’m kind of familiar with being in a room full of playmakers. You know, guys that can just go out there and flat-out play. But I think the most important thing for the whole group is just to be unselfish. Guys making it more a family thing and not just being selfish.”

Boyd told Sirius that he knows what it takes to have a successful receiving corps and help out a young quarterback. "And another thing I know, he (Will Levis) kind of probably went out there and did too much. But now he got playmakers. He got guys. I think he can cut it back a little bit, relax, and just rely more on his playmakers. But at the end of the day, he’s still learning the offense as well.”

Boyd will not do much talking in Tennessee. Like in Cincinnati, he will show let his play speak for him. And even with a talented receiving core including Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins, and Treylon Burks, there's little doubt that will bring the same thing to the Titans that he brought to the Bengals -- a productive player on the field and a leader in the locker room. 

Boyd’s leadership is already paying dividends on the field. He told reporters,You (the other receivers) might brain fart a little bit, and you may not know what you’re doing. The good thing is that I’m here. I can kind of navigate guys on the field and tell them what they got.” Boyd called it a win-win for the receivers learning a new offense stating, “I’m used to the offense and how he (Brian Callahan) wants it done… it helps guys progress faster.” 

Cincinnati addressed the need for a wideout in the 2024 draft when they selected Jermaine Burton in the third round. However, with the almost certain departure of Higgins next offseason and a potential contract dispute with Chase on the horizon, it would have been nice to have another veteran receiver like Boyd to help navigate this moment for the Bengals on the field and in the locker room.