CINCINNATI – The Bengals think they’ve found someone who can take attention away from Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green – a tight end who lines up anywhere and catches the ball in a crowd.
Cincinnati took Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame with the 21st overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday, the second time in four years that they’ve gone for a tight end in the first round. They got Jermaine Gresham — also with the 21st overall pick — in 2010.
Finding someone to complement Green has been a challenge for the Bengals the past two seasons. Now Andy Dalton will have another sure-handed option in the offense, this one in the form of a 6-5, 250-pound tight end.
“I’m sure Andy’s happy right now,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “We’re trying to make sure Andy is happy. Obviously we’ve got to take the pressure off A.J. Green, and this is one step in doing that.”
Tight end wasn’t a major area of concern. The Bengals are uncertain about their right tackle situation, with Andre Smith an unrestricted free agent. They’re also trying to solidify the safety spot. With a run on linemen and the top-rated safeties earlier in the first round, they decided to help an offense that struggled down the stretch.
The Bengals have reached the playoffs each of the last two seasons as a wild card, losing to Houston in the first round both times. Gresham dropped a pass on Cincinnati’s opening series in a 19-13 loss at Houston on Jan. 5. Dalton completed only 14 of 30 passes in that game for 127 yards with an interception.
Gresham has made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons. He finished second to Green with 64 catches and 737 yards, and was third on the team with five touchdowns. The Bengals signed tight end Alex Smith from Cleveland last week.
The plan is to work Eifert in gradually as he learns the offense. The Bengals could have both Gresham and Eifert on the field in passing situations.
“I don’t think Jermaine has a lot to worry about,” Gruden said. “Jermaine is our starting tight end.”