7 Possible Free Agent Destinations for Irv Smith Jr.

Vikings Activate Rookie and Could Get TE Back
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84) during the first half of the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

When the Minnesota Vikings acquired T.J. Hockenson at the 2022 NFL trade deadline, Irv Smith’s future changed with the snap of two fingers.

The inevitability of Smith’s departure was enhanced when Hockenson thrived immediately with the Vikings, and the former Detroit Lion stamped a ticket to become Minnesota’s TE1 for the long-term foreseeable future. Smith even seemed to say goodbye to Vikings fans on Instagram after the team’s playoff loss to the New York Giants three and half weeks ago.

7 Possible Free Agent Destinations for Irv Smith Jr.

In short, Minnesota must extend Hockenson this offseason (next year at the latest), and Smith is a free agent now. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah cannot afford both, especially if Smith desires more than $5 million per season.

Therefore, Smith could land with these teams via free agency.

Carolina Panthers

7 Possible Free Agent
Jan 31, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich speaks at his introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Griffin Zetterberg-USA TODAY Sports.

TE1 Caliber under Contract in 2023: None

Nobody knows who will quarterback the 2023 Panthers — probably a youngster from the 2023 NFL Draft. Young quarterbacks tend to enjoy TE security blankets, and Smith could reasonably fill the role, if healthy.

If the Panthers make no tight end moves, they’d enter 2023 with Tommy Tremble as TE1.

Cincinnati Bengals

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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws in the first quarter during an NFL divisional playoff football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

TE1 Caliber under Contract in 2023: None

In Cincinnati, Smith’s career could truly take off, as Joe Burrow isn’t about to let any prolific playmaker fall by the wayside. Too, Smith would probably get to visit the postseason annually and get showcased as the undisputed TE1.

The Bengals ranked fourth-worst in the NFL per receiving yards by tight ends in 2022.

Green Bay Packers

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Oct 16, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur reacts to a call during the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

TE1 Caliber under Contract in 2023: None

Yuck, huh?

Robert Tonyan might return but is a true-blue free agent. Folks also don’t know who will be the Packers QB1, but it’s probably Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love.

It’s gross to ponder, but Smith could easily land in the neighboring state.

Miami Dolphins

Sep 29, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports,

TE1 Caliber under Contract in 2023: None

Miami ranked dead last in the sport for receiving yards by tight ends. Of course, they employ Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, so that helps ease the pain.

But the beholder of the terrible Griddy — Mike Gesicki — is a free agent, and if he doesn’t return with Miami, well, they need a tight end.

New Orleans Saints

Jan 1, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

TE1 Caliber under Contract in 2023: Juwan Johnson

Probably the lowest on the list because they employ Johnson and Adam Trautman — plus Taysom Hill — the Saints could entertain Smith as a free agent, particularly if they land a QB1 like Derek Carr. He would need weapons.

And Smith is from Louisiana. Sometimes those ties matter.

New York Giants

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) runs the ball against the Minnesota Vikings during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

TE1 Caliber under Contract in 2023: Daniel Bellinger

New York placed fifth-worst in the NFL per TE receiving yards, and Bellinger is on tap for 2023 as the TE1. It is unclear if he’ll blossom into a Pro Bowler. Inking Smith to a deal would hedge the bet and provide Daniel Jones with a Bellinger-Smith sandwich.

Washington Commanders

Dec 24, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports.

TE1 Caliber under Contract in 2023: Logan Thomas

Washington is in the same boat as Carolina listed above — no one is sure of the 2023 QB1’s identity. It could be Sam Howell, a free agent, or a shiny new rookie.

The Commanders produced the third-fewest receiving yards by tight ends in 2022, and Smith could help bump that number to the middle of the pack.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.