4 Landing Spots for Irv Smith Jr. in 2023

Irv Smith Jr. was supposed to be the Minnesota Vikings tight end of the future after Kyle Rudolph left, but injuries as well as other roster moves have derailed that timeline for the 24-year-old. In 2022, Smith came back from a meniscus tear that kept him sidelined for the entire 2021 season, but just a few weeks into the season, he hit the shelf once again after suffering a high ankle sprain.

This prompted the Vikings to trade for T.J. Hockenson, and now, it doesn’t appear that there is a spot for Smith on the roster alongside Hockenson with the 2019 second-round pick about to hit free agency. Here are four teams that could acquire the once-promising tight end in 2023.

Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) adjusts wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) on the line before a play in the second quarter of the NFL Week 14 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. The Bengals led 13-3 at halftime. Cleveland Browns At Cincinnati Bengals Week 14 Syndication The Enquirer

Hayden Hurst came in during the 2022 offseason and filled the role of tight end very well for the Cincinnati Bengals this season. He caught 52 passes for 414 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2022, helping Cincinnati make another AFC Championship run.

However, Hurst is heading into free agency again, turns 30 in 2023, and he likely will command more than the $3.5 million that he made in 2022. Spotrac estimates that his next contract will play him $6.8 million next season, and Over the Cap has his market price at right around $6.5 million.

Now, the Bengals have about $35.6 million in cap space for this offseason, so they could afford Hurst if they really wanted to. However, they may want to use most of that cap room to improve their defense. Smith is almost certainly a cheaper (and much younger) option for the Bengals to pursue.

Green Bay Packers

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have had a very strange start to their offseason, especially in regard to their QB1 Aaron Rodgers. Honestly, their interest in Smith may depend on what happens with their QB in the coming months.

If Rodgers sticks around, the Packers probably try to bring back many of their veteran players to make one more run for the playoffs. If he leaves, Green Bay may opt to get younger. This is important at the tight end spot because, like Hurst in Cincinnati, Robert Tonyan is set to hit free agency.

Tonyan had an incredible 2020 season in Green Bay, but since then, his production has gone down largely due to injuries. Tonyan turns 29, and Josiah Deguara hasn’t shown all the makings of a TE1 yet, so perhaps Green Bay could take a flyer on Smith.

Miami Dolphins

Oct 17, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs with the ball in the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Gesicki’s contract has come to an end, and even during the season, it seemed that Miami was trying to ship him off, so a divorce between the two sides seems inevitable. He’s also estimated by Spotrac to have a market value of a 4-year/$32 million contract this offseason.

Given the fact that Miami is already around $16 million over the cap for this offseason, it doesn’t seem likely that they will pay a lucrative amount for the tight end. Perhaps that could result in a reunion of two former Alabama teammates in Smith and QB Tua Tagovailoa.

Houston Texans

Aug 25, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) walks off the field after the win against the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans have needs all over their roster, automatically making them a candidate for free agents. Particularly at tight end, though, they spent a 2021 fifth-round pick on Brevin Jordan, but he has not taken the step forward that might have been hoped for over his first two NFL seasons.

Instead, Jordan Akins has filled the role of TE1 for this team, catching 37 passes for 495 yards and 5 TDs in 2022. Akins’ contract is now over, however, and he hits the open market heading into his age-31 season.

Perhaps this is the time for Jordan to take on that TE1 role in an attempt to prove himself, but Houston could bring Smith in as competition for the starting tight end spot, if nothing else.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.