The Cincinnati Bengals lost tight end Hayden Hurst to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.
Hurst agreed to a three-year deal with the Panthers.
The former South Carolina standout played one season for the Bengals after signing a one-year deal with the franchise last offseason.
With Hurst heading south, the Bengals are in the market for a tight end.
And there’s an option available that could help take Cincinnati’s offense to the next level.
Midway through last season, the Bengals changed their offensive approach a bit. Cincinnati starting using more shotgun formations, opening things up.
Tight end Mike Gesicki, a pending free agent who spent the last five seasons with the Miami Dolphins, could be an incredible fit in the Bengals’ offense.
Gesicki could be a Travis Kelce-type weapon for Cincinnati. That could be especially attractive to the Bengals after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game this past season.
The former Penn State star isn’t known for his run-blocking abilities — which is why he’s not a great fit in Mike McDaniel’s offense that asks its tight ends to mostly block (Gesicki caught just 32 passes for 362 yards last season, but he caught 73 passes for 780 yards the year before McDaniel arrived in Miami).
Instead, Gesicki is a dynamic pass catcher who would create some interesting mismatches in Cincy’s offense.
(By the way, it’s not like Hurst had a reputation as an elite run blocker before signing with the Bengals. It’s something that Gesicki can improve on if he lands in Cincy.)
The Bengals already have wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins on the roster. Adding Gesicki to that mix could make Cincy’s offense unstoppable.
With those three guys on the field, it’s inevitable that Gesicki would get a favorable matchup against a safety or even a linebacker. Not many safeties can handle Gesicki, who is 6-foot-5/250 lbs. And linebackers won’t be able to cover him at all.
Good luck to the defensive coordinator who has to figure that out.
With the Bengals seemingly committed to a shotgun/spread-it-out approach while also flipping their running back room, it could signal a permanent change in offensive philosophy. We might see fewer running plays from Cincy in 2023.
Cincinnati ran the ball an average of 24 times per game in 2022, but they ran the ball just 17 times, not counting Joe Burrow’s runs, in the final game of the regular season against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bengals also had just 13 non-Burrow rushing attempts against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game (Cincy had 34 rushing attempts against the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs, but that was in part because the Bengals were playing with a lead and trying to kill sone clock).
Mike Gesicki’s been literally the only fun thing in this game to date. pic.twitter.com/EFQBDSD03N
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) November 7, 2021
Not only would landing Gesicki give the Bengals another big offensive weapon, but it would protect them against losing wide receiver Tee Higgins.
I know the Bengals have said they’d like to keep Higgins longterm, but that might not be realistic (Burrow and Chase won’t be cheap).
If Higgins leaves next offseason, Cincinnati would still have a Kelce/Tyreek Hill-type combination in Chase and Gesicki (then they could draft a replacement next offseason for Higgins…if one is available).
Gesicki is projected to receive a four-year deal worth around $38 million. That’s a reasonable contract for a top tight end. And it’s significantly cheaper than what Higgins will likely earn with his first non-rookie contract.
Overcoming Gesicki’s run-blocking issues is a concern, but everything else about this move would make perfect sense for the Bengals.