Tyler Eifert, Tight End, go.
Tyler Eifert’s name became well known around the NFL following his breakout 2015 campaign that saw him haul in 52 passes on 74 targets for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns in just 12 games. Eifert was selected to the Pro Bowl following his career year, where the Tight End suffered a back injury that has resulted in him playing in only 14 games since 2015. Given the negative impact the injury has had on Eifert’s health over the past three years, Cincinnati almost has no other option but to move on as he just cannot find his way back onto the playing field.
Michael Johnson, Defensive End, go.
Johnson has spent nine out of his ten years in the NFL with the Bengals. Johnson played one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 before re-signing with Cincinnati prior to the 2015 season. In 2018, the 32-year-old Johnson saw a significant dip in his production as a rotational player, which is mostly related to younger players like Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson earning more playing time. With the Bengals transitioning to a younger front seven, Johnson falls out of the picture.
Preston Brown, Linebacker, go.
The Bengals signed Brown to a one-year, $5 million contract last off-season after he had a career year with the Buffalo Bills in 2017. Brown made it known how excited he was to be joining the Bengals as he is a Cincinnati native. However, Brown didn’t turn out to be the answer in the middle of the Bengals defense. The 26-year-old linebacker recorded 42 total tackles and two interceptions in 2018 before landing on Injured Reserve in November.
Vincent Rey, Linebacker, go.
Rey, like Michael Johnson, is subject to the infusion of youth that’s taking over the Bengals defense. Rey is heading into his age 32 season and he only started two games for the Bengals in 2018. The Bengals should be ready to hand the keys to Rey’s role over to second-year pro Malik Jefferson.
Cedric Ogbuehi, Tackle, go.
Ogbuehi has turned out to be exactly what no team or fan wants a player to turn out to be: a first-round draft bust. Ogbuehi was selected 21st overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and just hasn’t panned out in Cincinnati. Ogbuehi did not start a game in 2018 and was active for only two.
Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, go.
Dennard is another former first-round draft pick of the Bengals, but he, unlike Ogbuehi, hasn’t been a flat out bust. Though he shouldn’t be considered a draft bust, Dennard has not quite lived up to his expectations, either. Selected 24th overall in 2014, Dennard has only started in 19 of 80 career games, appearing in 13 and starting 9 last season.
Jake Fisher, Tackle, stay.
Fisher, a former tight end as a rookie, has spent his entire four-year career with the Bengals. With Cincinnati struggling to find answers at offensive tackle, the Bengals should make an effort to retain the restricted free agent. While Fisher hasn’t been a starter for the Bengals, he’s been a reliable depth option that should be ready to make the leap to a starting job.
Bobby Hart, Tackle, go.
Hart started all sixteen games at right tackle for the Bengals in 2018. Despite starting the full season, however, Hart was less than stellar. Hart commited 12 penalites as a blocker, nine of them occuring before the snap. Hart is inconsistent at best, leaving Cincinnati still searching for an answer at right tackle.
Andre Smith, Tackle, go.
Smith has spent all but 1.5 seasons of his nine year NFL career with the Bengals, spending 2016 with the Minnesota Vikings and half of 2018 with the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona signed Smith to a two-year contract last off-season, but waived him in November after he started eight games. Cincinnati claimed Smith, but the 32-year-old tackle was only active for three games and made no starts.
Tyler Kroft, Tight End, stay.
Kroft had a less-than-ideal season in 2018, the final season of his contract. Kroft appeared in five games, starting two, before he was placed on Injured Reserve in November. Prior to a foot injury in 2018, Kroft has been reliable and effective for the Bengals and should be kept around to fill the shoes of Tyler Eifert full time.
Matt Lengel, Tight End, stay.
The Bengals have to like the position they are in at tight end. While they’d like Tyler Eifert to return to his 2015 form, it just won’t happen. Losing Eifert should be relatively easy for the Bengals to handle, though, given the solid depth they have at the tight end spot. Players like Lengel are a perfect example of that solid depth, which is why he should be kept around.
C.J. Uzomah, Tight End, stay.
Uzomah is sitting in the “stay” column for the same reasons as Tyler Kroft and Matt Lengel. Uzomah though, has more similarities to Kroft in the reasoning. Uzomah is a talented young player that has shown he can handle a starting job in the NFL, and he should be given the opportunity to do so under Zac Taylor in 2018 and beyond.