Bengals free-agent breakdown: TE Alex Smith


CINCINNATI -- Free agency is right around the corner for the Cincinnati Bengals, who have 15 players with contracts that expire in March.

Of the 15, 13 are unrestricted free agents and two are restricted free agents. To help you understand what decisions the Bengals must make with each of them, we're taking a daily look at the respective free agents and the reasons why they will or won't be re-signed.

We started with quarterback Jason Campbell. Then looked at running back Cedric Peerman, receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and receiver Brandon Tate.

We continue with tight end Alex Smith:

Year signed: 2014

Length of previous deal: One year

2014 Cap Value: $635,525

2014 Role: Backup tight end.

Why he will be re-signed: Much like they will be at receiver, the Bengals could be pressed for building solid depth at tight end this offseason, too. Along with Smith, veteran Jermaine Gresham also is eligible for free agency. We'll get to more on Gresham on Wednesday, but for now, the best way it seems that Smith could return to the Bengals is if the team doesn't decide to re-sign Gresham or he inks a deal elsewhere. If that were to happen, Cincinnati would need to shore up the depth at the position, and Smith could help do that. Two weeks ago, the Bengals already signed Kevin Brock as an exclusive rights free agent, giving them a third tight end to go along with Tyler Eifert and Ryan Hewitt. If the Bengals fail to re-sign Gresham and bring back Smith, they'll likely turn to the draft for a promising young, pass-catching tight end they'll be able to develop much like they hoped to do with Gresham in 2010.

Why he won't be re-signed: Injuries have become a recent bugaboo for Smith, who received a serious wrist injury during the 2013 regular-season finale that effectively got the Bengals to sign Brock in the first place. An NFL journeyman, Brock was added to help fill out that year's playoff roster. Then, after getting cut during training camp, Brock came back near the start of this past season after Smith tore his left biceps, and was subsequently lost for the year. There are several reasons as to why the Bengals might not re-sign Smith, but near the top of the list has to be his injury propensity. Teams aren't in the business of continually paying players who have trouble staying on the field, regardless of how fluky their injuries may actually be. It is possible that even if Gresham doesn't come back, Smith might be gone, too. If that happens, the Bengals could use both free agency and the draft to find their replacements.