Irv Smith Jr.

Chiefs To Add TE Irv Smith Jr.

Quiet early in free agency, the Chiefs will add a piece to their offense. The two-time reigning Super Bowl champions are bringing in former Vikings and Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr., ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets.

A second-generation NFL tight end, Smith has been unable to find consistency as a pro. Multiple teams have given the former Alabama pass catcher opportunities, however, and Chiefs pickups have resulted in a host of recent free agents collecting Super Bowl rings. Smith will join a Kansas City threepeat push, doing so on a one-year deal worth $1.29MM, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. Only $384K of this deal is guaranteed.

Despite being a five-year veteran, Smith is only 25. A 2019 second-round pick, Smith has been unable to establish himself as a trusted receiving option. The Bengals’ flier on Smith produced only 18 receptions for 115 yards. Smith has not topped 300 yards in a season since 2020, when he notched a career-high 365 alongside Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota.

Injuries dogged Smith in Minnesota. He missed all of the 2021 campaign due to a knee injury and did not contribute much to the Vikings’ 2022 NFC North title, sustaining a high ankle sprain — an injury that played a role in Minnesota trading for T.J. Hockenson at the ’22 deadline. With the Bengals moving to Mike Gesicki, the Chiefs will gauge Smith’s form alongside one of the best to ever do it.

As Travis Kelce goes into his age-35 season — a 12th NFL slate for the superstar talent — the Chiefs still have his top wingman (Noah Gray) rostered. Blake Bell, however, played out a one-year contract last season.

Bengals To Sign TE Irv Smith Jr.

MARCH 31: This deal amounts to a 2023 flier, with ESPN’s Field Yates noting (via Twitter) it comes with a $1.75MM base value and can max out at $2MM. It will position Smith to make an impact in a Joe Burrow-led offense ahead of a possible second bid in free agency or a Cincinnati extension.

MARCH 28: Cincinnati had a notable vacancy at the tight end position heading into the second wave of free agency, but it has now been filled. The Bengals are signing Irv Smith Jr. to a one-year deal, reports Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager (Twitter link).

The Bengals inked Hayden Hurst to a one-year deal last offseason, giving them an experienced starter at the tight end spot. He was among the top options at the position in this year’s free agent class, however, and signed a big-ticket deal with the Panthers. For the second straight year, that left Cincinnati looking for a replacement seam-stretcher.

Smith brings plenty of upside as a pass-catcher, having flashed potential during his time with the Vikings. Injuries have been a central aspect of his career to date, however, including a meniscus tear which cost him the entire 2021 campaign. He was back on the field to begin the 2022 season, but an ankle injury limited him to eight contests. The 24-year-old has been available for a full year only once so far in his career.

Smith’s most recent absence drove Minnesota to trade for T.J. Hockenson at the deadline, and the former Lions first-rounder is set to lead the Vikings’ TE room for at least one more year. His acquisition pointed to Smith being forced to head elsewhere on the open market, and Cincinnati represents an attractive landing spot for the Alabama product.

The Bengals once again boasted one of the league’s top passing attacks last season, driven in large part by their top receiver duo of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Smith, if he is able to stay healthy, will have the opportunity to work as a secondary option in terms of pass-catchers in an offense with several mouths to feed. The former second-rounder could be well-positioned for new career highs after he set personal marks in 2020 with 365 yards and five touchdowns.

Doing so would allow the defending AFC North champions to remain productive at the tight end spot, while helping Smith boost his value ahead of next offseason. The Bengals – who also met with Foster Moreau before this deal with Smith – will have a number of high-end TE prospects to choose from in next month’s draft. In case they miss out on one of the rookies they could be targeting, though, they will have a short-term veteran option at the top of the depth chart.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/7/23

Today’s minor transactions heading into the final Sunday of the regular season:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Promoted from practice squad: WR Josh Ali

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vikings Plan To Activate TE Irv Smith

The Vikings are set to receive a nice boost to their passing offense just in time for the playoffs as the team plans to activate tight end Irv Smith from injured reserve, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. In order to make room for Smith on the roster, the Vikings have waived tight end Nick Muse.

Coming off a meniscus tear that would cost him the entire 2021 season, Smith’s role as a starter diminished this year as the Vikings would favor starting better run blockers in Johnny Mundt and Ben Ellefson. Still, Smith led the team’s position group in receiving yards and touchdowns until suffering an ankle injury in a Week 8 win over the Cardinals that would land him on IR. Smith’s injury would lead Minnesota to send a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick to Detroit in exchange for tight end T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick, and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.

The return of Smith makes an already-potent Vikings offense even more formidable. In addition to a running game led by Dalvin Cook and supplemented by Alexander Mattison, quarterback Kirk Cousins has an array of pass-catching weapons that includes Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Hockenson, and Smith.

Smith is set to hit free agency this offseason. If he wishes to remain in Minnesota past this year, Smith will need to show that he can earn targets in a crowded group of receivers. With Hockenson signed through next year, Smith will have to prove to the Vikings that he is worth Minnesota paying two pass-catching tight ends.

Muse’s rookie season comes to an end after failing to register one snap on offense for the Vikings this year. A seventh-round pick this year, Muse appeared solely on special teams in what would end up being a crowded, but injured, tight ends room. If he clears waivers, the Vikings can sign him to the practice squad and, eventually, a futures contract.

Vikings Designate TE Irv Smith Jr. For Return, Activate RB Ty Chandler

The Vikings pulled off one of the more notable trades during this year’s deadline to help offset the loss of Irv Smith Jr. The fourth-year tight end could be back in the fold, soon however.

Smith was designated for return from IR on Wednesday, per a team announcement. That opened up the 24-year-old’s three-week window to be activated and allowed him to practice for the first time since October. Smith suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 8, leading to his extended absence.

That represented the latest in a long line of availability concerns for the former second-rounder, who missed the entire 2021 campaign due to a meniscus tear. It also dealt another blow to his free agent value, something of particular concern as he is a pending free agent. Most importantly, though, it drove Minnesota to swing a midseason deal with Detroit for two-time Pro Bowler T.J. Hockenson to replace him.

Hockenson has been as advertised since his arrival in Minnesota. The former top-ten pick has racked up 52 catches, 444 yards and three touchdowns in eight games with his new NFC North employer. Given that level of production, not to mention to presence of wideouts Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn as competition for targets, it will be interesting to see how much of a role Smith is able to carve out down the stretch.

The Vikings will also have more depth in the backfield to close out the regular season. Minnesota activated rookie running back Ty Chandler; they needed to do so today to avoid having him revert to season-ending IR. The fifth-rounder has played in two games this season, both of which came in October. He has exclusively seen time on special teams so far, but could provide insurance behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison if necessary.

The Vikings have five IR activations remaining on the year, though Smith will account for one of those in the near future. His return will give a boost to what is already the league’s fifth-ranked passing offense as Minnesota looks to turn their relatively healthy roster into a deep playoff run.

Vikings Expect TE Irv Smith Jr. To Return During Regular Season

The Vikings expect to have TE Irv Smith Jr. back on the field before the end of the regular season, as head coach Kevin O’Connell recently told reporters, including Kevin Seifert of (Twitter link). Smith suffered an ankle injury in Minnesota’s Week 8 victory over the Cardinals and was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter.

The injury to Smith prompted the Vikes to swing an intra-divisional trade for former Lions TE T.J. Hockenson. Since the trade, Hockenson is averaging six catches and 45 yards per game as part of an offense that also includes wideouts Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Smith, who missed all of the 2021 season due to a meniscus tear, would represent an intriguing, high-upside complement to that group of pass-catchers. The team ranks in the top-10 in both passing yards per game and points per game, and adding Smith back into the mix could make its aerial attack even more formidable.

A 2019 second-round draft choice, Smith will be eligible for free agency at season’s end. Obviously, this year’s ankle injury coupled with his 2021 absence have not allowed him to generate much momentum towards a lucrative, multi-year pact, so he will likely be looking at one-year offers this offseason. Minnesota could be interested in a reunion, as Hockenson’s fifth-year option salary and cap charge of $9.4MM is manageable — his cap number could be further reduced with an extension — and there are no other particularly appealing tight ends on the roster.

In related news, the Vikings are without left tackle Christian Darrisaw for the third consecutive game on Sunday. However, Darrisaw has reportedly cleared the concussion protocol and should therefore have a good chance to suit up for the team’s Week 15 matchup with the Colts (Twitter link via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Safety Harrison Smith, meanwhile, will miss Sunday’s game against the Lions as well due to a neck injury.

The 10-2 Vikings have a five-game advantage in the NFC North and are just one game back of the 11-1 Eagles for the top seed in the NFC (though Philadelphia enjoys the tiebreaker by virtue of its Week 2 victory over Minnesota). Their divisional cushion is allowing them to be cautious with some of their top players.

Injury Updates: Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Seahawks

Ezekiel Elliott is expected back this weekend. After the star running back missed Week 8, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that he expects Elliott to be back on the field against the Packers on Sunday, per Jon Machota of The Athletic (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Elliott himself told Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his knee is getting better and the swelling has decreased (Twitter link). If the RB does return this weekend, he acknowledged that he’ll wear a knee brace.

Elliott has started each of his seven appearances this season. While his 63.3 rushing yards per game is about on-par with his recent performance, his yards-per-touch is currently a career-low mark (4.1). Backup Tony Pollard showed up when he earned an opportunity to start prior to the bye, finishing with 131 rushing yards on 14 carries. Despite the numbers, Jones made it clear that he’s sticking with Elliott atop the depth chart.

“There’s no argument,” Jones recently said of replacing Elliott as the starting RB. “Zeke’s ability to punish, Zeke’s ability to deliver, Zeke’s ability, what he does for us in pass protection, and, frankly, Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there, and we’re going to go as Zeke goes. I really mean he’s that integral to our success this year.”

Some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Meanwhile, Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith is about two or three weeks away from returning to practice, Stephen Jones recently said (via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas News on Twitter). If Smith requires his entire three-week window to get back into game shape, then the lineman could be eyeing a late-December return. The veteran offensive lineman suffered a hamstring injury during training camp that’s sidelined him for the first chunk of the season.
  • While Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. landed on injured reserve earlier this month thanks to an ankle issue, the injury likely won’t require surgery, coach Kevin O’Connell said (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter). Smith Jr. hasn’t started a game yet this season but has put up his standard numbers, hauling in 22 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns through seven games.
  • Damontae Kazee is expected to be activated off IR this week, and the Steelers safety provided some information on the injury that’s knocked him out for the first few months of the season. In addition to breaking his whole forearm, Kazee also suffered a dislocated wrist that “popped back into place during surgery,” per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor on Twitter. When he next takes the field, he’ll be armed with a padded brace to protect his arm. Kazee joined the Steelers this past offseason after starting 15 games for the Cowboys in 2021. Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged how much veterans like Kazee and trade-deadline acquisition William Jackson III will help the defense. “Anytime you get veteran presences, it is an asset to you,” Tomlin said (via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic). “Been-there, done-that guys, and those guys are that.”
  • Seahawks linebacker/special teams ace Cullen Gillaspia injured his knee on Sunday and will need surgery, according to ESPN’s Brady Henderson (on Twitter). Fortunately, the injury isn’t as bad as initially feared, but Gillaspia is still expected to be sidelined for some time. The former seventh-round pick joined the Seahawks practice squad back in September, but he’s since appeared in six games while playing the majority of Seattle’s special teams snaps.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/1/22

A handful of minor moves on a busy deadline day:

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Free Agency

Lions Trade TE T.J. Hockenson To Vikings

An intra-NFC North trade is going down. The Lions are sending tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings, Adam Schefter of reports (on Twitter).

Acquired before the current Detroit regime arrived, Hockenson is under contract through 2023. Four picks are being exchanged in this deal. The Vikings are sending their division rivals a 2023 second-round pick and a 2023 third-rounder, Schefter tweets. The Vikings will receive Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-rounder and a conditional 2024 fourth. The Vikings announced the trade.

The Vikings are making this move in part because their current top tight end — Irv Smith Jr. — is set to miss time with a high ankle sprain. Hockenson, whom the Lions chose eighth overall in the 2019 draft, will be a higher-profile piece in the Vikings’ offense. At 6-1, the Vikings are dealing into their future asset war chest to add a key playmaker for Kirk Cousins. Smith is expected to be sidelined at least eight weeks, Schefter tweets, helping to explain the big price the Vikings will pay for an upgrade.

This trade comes months after the Vikings traded their No. 12 overall pick to the Lions, who moved up 20 spots to draft Jameson Williams. The Vikes have not shied away from intra-division moves under rookie GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Following the trade-down maneuver with the Lions, Adofo-Mensah traded back with the Packers in the second round, giving Green Bay the Christian Watson draft slot (No. 34 overall).

The Lions now have acquired future assets to help their rebuild. They now own two first-rounders and two seconds in the 2023 draft. Hockenson, 25, represented the final pass-catching piece from the Bob Quinn regime. The Lions had been linked to a possible Hockenson extension; instead, the Brad Holmes regime will start over at tight end.

Although various injuries have cropped up for Hockenson during his four-year Motor City run, he has not missed more than five games in a season. The Iowa product has a 700-plus-yard season on his resume (2020, his Pro Bowl campaign) and hauled in 61 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns last season — a 12-game slate. This year, Hockenson has 26 receptions for 395 yards and three TDs. The 15.2-yard average, albeit in just seven games, represents by far a career-high mark for the 6-foot-5 pass catcher. Hockenson is tied to a $965K base salary and will be tethered to a fully guaranteed $9.39MM fifth-year option price in 2023.

Minnesota’s passing attack has featured steady Nos. 1 and 2 options for many years, with Justin Jefferson taking over for Stefon Diggs alongside Adam Thielen. The Vikings deployed Kyle Rudolph as their top tight end through the 2020 season and have seen some contributions from Smith. But the former second-rounder out of Alabama missed all of 2021 due to injury and is averaging just 7.6 yards per catch (22 receptions, 168 yards, two TDs) this season. Smith, who caught five touchdown passes in 2020, will move toward the fringes of Minnesota’s aerial hierarchy when he returns from injury. The second-generation NFLer is in a contract year.

At 6-1, the Vikings hold the NFC’s second-best record. They are 3.5 games up in the NFC North and have the tiebreaker over the Packers, who have won this division three years running. With the Packers scuffling and the Lions and Bears rebuilding, the red carpet is laid out for the Vikings to book their first home playoff game in five years. The franchise’s first-year regime parting with two Day 2 assets certainly signals it recognizes the opportunity here.

Injury Updates: Eichenberg, Smith, Parker, Moore, Bellinger

Dolphins guard Liam Eichenberg was carted off the field in this Sunday’s trip to Detroit. The injury isn’t as serious as initially feared, but it appears Eichenberg has suffered an MCL injury and will miss some time, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Miami will have options to replace Eichenberg. Michael Deiter started eight games at center last year for the Dolphins and 15 games at Eichenberg’s left guard position in 2019. Brandon Shell and Greg Little are also options with plenty of starting experience, albeit at tackle. Robert Jones is also an option after starting a game last year.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:

  • The Vikings are expected to be down another tight end after Irv Smith suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. With Ben Ellefson on injured reserve, Minnesota will have to rely on veteran Johnny Mundt who came over from Los Angeles in the offseason. Mundt has had limited targets this year with Minnesota’s litany of talented pass catchers, but his 12 receptions are already more than he had during his five years with the Rams. The Vikings will also likely explore the option of signing one of its two practice squad tight ends, Jacob Hollister and Nick Muse.
  • After suffering a knee sprain on the first play of the Patriots’ win over the Jets this weekend, wide receiver DeVante Parker is not expected to miss extended time, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Rapoport reports that if he does miss time, it should only be one game, especially since New England has a bye after next Sunday’s contest against the Colts. He should definitely be back in time for a rematch with the Jets in Week 11.
  • Colts cornerback Kenny Moore suffered a right hand sprain in practice last week, according to James Boyd of The Athletic. As Boyd inquired about the injury, Moore revealed that he has also been playing with a torn ligament in his left hand since the start of the season. Neither injury is expected to hold Moore out of any games, but this interview offered a glimpse into what Moore has been playing through this year.
  • After a gruesome freak accident that saw Jaguars rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd strike Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger directly in the eye on a whiffed attempt to punch the ball out, Bellinger reportedly “underwent successful surgery to correct fractures on (the) lower window of (his) eye socket and damage to (his) septum,” according to Fowler. Bellinger hopes to return in two to six weeks, but other sources indicate that four to six weeks is a much more reasonable timeline.