The Cincinnati Bengals have high hopes for the upcoming NFL season. As such, they have made several notable moves during the 2024 offseason. Among these, the signing of tight end Mike Gesicki stands out not just for its potential impact, but also for the considerable risk it entails. As the Bengals aim to solidify their roster and make a deep playoff run, the decision to bring Gesicki on board has sparked considerable debate. Sure, his athleticism and receiving skills are undeniable. Still, the move comes with its fair share of uncertainties that could either propel the Bengals to new heights or leave them grappling with unfulfilled expectations.

The Bengals So Far

The Bengals bolstered their secondary by signing safety Geno Stone from the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens. Stone's impressive seven interceptions in 2023 were the second-most in the NFL. The team also revamped its ground game by replacing Joe Mixon with Zack Moss, making it more affordable and athletic. Mixon has not averaged more than 4.1 yards per carry since his second season in 2018. As for Moss, he has surpassed that figure in three of his four seasons.

Colts running back Zack Moss (21) goes up against Bengals corner back Chidobe Awuzie (22) during the Bengals vs. Colts game at Paycor Stadium on Sunday December 10, 2023. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime.
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Additionally, the addition of Mike Gesicki provides an interesting storyline as a pass-catching tight end compared to Irv Smith. Despite these positive changes, uncertainty looms over the offseason due to Tee Higgins' unresolved future. Higgins has requested a trade if he does not receive a multi-year extension. This potentially sets up an awkward locker room situation in 2024 if his demands are not met.

Here we'll look at the one player who is the Cincinnati Bengals' riskiest free agency move in the 2024 NFL offseason.

Mike Gesicki, TE

The Bengals have a history of acquiring “just fine” tight ends. Recall that they have had players like Irv Smith Jr, Hayden Hurst, and CJ Uzomah providing solid, if unspectacular, performances. Gesicki fits this mold, too. He may not be a game-changer, but he offers Joe Burrow another reasonably reliable target. This consistency does hold some value for the Bengals' offense, though it alone doesn't move the needle.

Rotating Door

Cincinnati's tight end position has been a revolving door since CJ Uzomah left in free agency following the 2021 Super Bowl season. Uzomah was succeeded by Hurst, who moved on after his one-year stint. Hurst was followed by Smith, who was then replaced mid-season by Tanner Hudson. This plug-and-play strategy has largely been effective, with both Uzomah and Hurst using their time with the Bengals to secure lucrative contracts elsewhere. That was even though both were released this offseason. The Bengals hoped Smith would follow the same trajectory, but he fell short. Hudson emerged as the best receiving option from the position last year. That said, he isn’t seen as a long-term solution.

Take note that in 2023, the Bengals' experiment with the tight end position yielded generally mediocre to poor results. That was a stark contrast to previous years where the role was a springboard for players seeking bigger paydays.

Gesicki the Answer?

By signing Gesicki to a one-year deal, the Bengals and Gesicki hope to mutually benefit. Gesicki often functions more like a wide receiver than a traditional tight end. He aims to leverage Burrow's prowess to reignite his career and secure a substantial contract. Conversely, the Bengals seek to exploit Gesicki's receiving skills to bolster their Super Bowl aspirations.

Earlier this offseason, the Bengals re-signed Drew Sample to serve as an in-line tight end. It's likely they will pair Gesicki with second-year receiver Charlie Jones to mitigate the impact of losing long-time slot receiver Tyler Boyd. Yes, Gesicki was held to less than 1.00 yards per route run in the past two seasons. However, his previous performances in 2020 and 2021, where he gained over 700 yards each year, demonstrate his potential when paired with a quarterback like Burrow.

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Mike Gesicki (88) catches a pass at Bengals spring practice at the IEL Indoor Facility in Cincinnati on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.
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High Risk?

The signing of Mike Gesicki is a high-risk, high-reward move for the Cincinnati Bengals. If Gesicki can capitalize on his athletic potential and become the dependable playmaker the team envisions, he could significantly enhance their offense. His knack for creating mismatches and stretching the field could introduce new dynamics to an already powerful passing attack. He gives Burrow another dynamic target. However, the inherent risks associated with his inconsistency, fit within the team's scheme, financial implications, and injury history are considerable and cannot be ignored.

Looking Ahead

Yes, the Bengals' offseason moves have positioned them as contenders in the AFC. That said, the decision to sign Mike Gesicki stands out as the riskiest. It is a move that could pay off handsomely if everything falls into place. On the flip side, it also has the potential to backfire and leave the team facing difficult questions. As the season unfolds, all eyes will be on Gesicki to see if he can deliver on his promise and justify the Bengals' faith in him. The stakes are high, and the outcome of this gamble will likely play a significant role in determining the Bengals' fortunes in the 2024 NFL season.