New Bengals tight end on chance to play with Burrow: ‘That is a place I want to go’

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — New Bengals tight end Mike Gesicki had been talking with his wife about Cincinnati as a possible landing spot since the day after his 2023 season with the New England Patriots came to an end.

Gesicki, who was on a one-year deal with the Patriots, knew he was heading into free agency again and that the Bengals might need a tight end. He had never played on a championship-caliber team before, and the idea of playing with Joe Burrow was enticing.

When the Bengals came calling this week, it was an easy decision. He signed a one-year contract worth up to $3.25 million, and Cincinnati introduced him — as well as new safety Geno Stone and running back Zack Moss in separate press conferences — to local media Thursday.

“I knew this was a place I wanted to be, and luckily, it was reciprocated because it’s definitely a two-way street, and so, when they had reached out, I was very excited,” Gesicki said. “I know the talent that’s in the locker room and the coaching staff, and I know a couple people that have been here before that have had nothing but unbelievable to say about it, so super excited.

“Outside of all that, they could have said it was the worst place in the world, but when you’ve got No. 9 at quarterback, I was like, ‘That is a place I want to go.’ So, that was something I was really looking forward to.”

The 28-year-old tight end had only 29 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns last season in New England, but he had three consecutive seasons in 2019, 2020 and 2021 with 50 catches or more. He calls himself “a player who likes to go out and make plays and have fun,” and he looks forward to more opportunities with the Bengals to do that.

Gesicki already is practicing his “griddy” touchdown celebration, which he plans to get more chances to do in Cincinnati’s offense. He said he can create mismatches in the slot and be an effective blocker and catcher, especially in the red zone.

“That’s who I am,” Gesicki said. “It’s what I pride myself on. Been through too much and work way too hard to not go out there and have fun.”

While Gesicki already had Cincinnati on his radar, Stone admitted he did not initially think of his former Baltimore Ravens’ AFC North rivals.

Stone began his career with the Ravens as a seventh-round draft pick out of Iowa in 2020, and with his rookie deal expiring, he ended up signing a two-year, $15 million deal with the Bengals.

“It is crazy,” Stone said. “It’s definitely a team I never would’ve thought of at first, but everything happens for a reason. I’m grateful for this opportunity. I’m just going to try and make the most of it.”

“I kind of knew early on, just looking at teams that (had) safety needs,” Stone said when asked why he chose the Bengals. “And for me, it was going to a team that has a great quarterback, great head coach, team that has a great defense, that plays hard, and this is one of them teams.”

Stone can appreciate his first big contract more after knowing how hard he had to work to earn it. As a rookie in 2020, he was cut by the Ravens twice and then five days after signing with the Houston Texans, he was released again and re-signed by Baltimore.

The next season, he played 15 games but only had one start, and gradually, he just kept working his way up the depth chart. In 2023, he finished with seven interceptions in 17 games with 11 starts, playing in a three-safety system.

“I just kept going to work, and here I am today,” Stone said. “…Going into last year, it was kind of that year for me where I just wanted to take that big step. I wanted to take that big leap in my career to show what I could really do, what I could really prove in this league and show who I was and I felt I did a great job of that.”

The Bengals had a chance to play against both Stone and Moss in 2023. Stone picked off Burrow in the red zone during their Week 2 matchup, and Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said Moss stood out when the staff was preparing the game plan for the Indianapolis Colts in December.

Cincinnati traded Joe Mixon to the Texans and were looking for an explosive option in the running game, as well as someone who would be strong in pass protection.

Moss, who signed a two-year, $8 million contract, fits that description. He finished the season with 794 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games, mainly starting in a two-back system before stepping up in Jonathan Taylor’s absences. Coming to the Bengals was a relatively easy decision.

“I mean it wasn’t much (convincing) that was needed,” Moss said. “I think understanding the offense and what type of role the running backs have had here in years past and things like that, and the kind of the offense that they run. It is a good marriage between the two, with just my style of play, the runs that I like to run and things of that nature, and they do a lot of that, the gun personnel and all that type of stuff. So it was just a good marriage. It made sense and just excited to finally be a part of it.”

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