‘I’m not sure what’s gonna happen’ -- Bengals’ Tyler Boyd talks about future

Veteran wide receiver will be a free agent this offseason

CINCINNATI — As Tyler Boyd was speaking to local media for what could have been the last time in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform, quarterback Jake Browning interrupted to share some of his thoughts on what the eighth-year wide receiver has meant to the team.

Browning sits in the space next to Boyd in the Bengals’ locker room and was trying to get his things together for a shower after Sunday’s finale win over Cleveland, and a large crowd of reporters spilled into his space.

As Browning collected his things and overheard questions about Boyd’s future as a pending free agent, he chimed in with his own perspective.

“My locker mate the whole year has been a big part of helping me bounce back when I throw three picks in a game, and I think an underrated part of the whole locker room,” Browning said with his arm around Boyd’s shoulders. “And the receiver room, obviously, we got a ton of talent there, but (he’s) a big unsung hero of the locker room and I hope he’s back, but wherever he goes, someone’s gonna be lucky to have him in the locker room.”

About 20 minutes later, Browning was asked in his postgame press conference why it was important for him to share those comments in front of Boyd. The quarterback said Boyd hasn’t gotten enough attention while playing alongside Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

Boyd is one of just three players on the current roster that had been a part of the team before Zac Taylor was hired and began changing the culture of the franchise. Boyd, Sam Hubbard, Joe Mixon and Josh Tupou are the last holdovers from the Marvin Lewis era.

“He was kind of the guy, and those two guys (Higgins in 2020 and Chase in 2021) came and it’s a zero-sum game — you can’t throw the ball to three people every play,” Browning said. “So there were a lot of touches that went other people’s ways, but he kind of set the tone that, ‘This is not going to be a prima donna room.’ It’s just really about winning and going as hard as you can. I’ll always have a lot of respect for T.B. and just how he carried himself. … Like I said earlier, you remember what people were like when something bad just happened. So, I’ll always think very highly of Tyler.”

When Boyd arrived as a second-round draft pick in 2016, he was a part of five straight losing seasons to open his NFL career before the big turnaround to Super Bowl runners up in 2021, but he recorded a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019 before targets started gradually falling.

Boyd appreciated Browning acknowledging that he never changed who he was despite his role changing. It showed how respected he is, an especially meaningful reminder now as he heads into an uncertain future as Cincinnati faces tough decisions with fitting in big contracts that are due.

“I’m in Year 8 now so I mean, I kind of expected this point to come at some point in my career, and I felt like I did everything I could,” Boyd said. “But, again, I mean, I may be back, I may not. I just don’t know.”

Boyd said he wasn’t emotional about Sunday potentially being his last as a Bengal. He was “business as usual” but admitted it feels a little weird knowing he is going to be a free agent for the first time in his career. Sunday ended on a good note with a win, and Boyd said he enjoyed a chance to do that with his teammates, but it was a little bittersweet missing the playoffs.

“I embraced it,” Boyd said. “I (thought) about it, but it is what it is. I’ve just got to wait and figure out what the scenario is going to be. I’m just going to take it day by day and (be) appreciative of these guys I’ve been playing with my whole career, so I just embrace it.”

Boyd said he would love to be back, and he will never not keep the Bengals in mind or not want to return. He fittingly ended the season at 513 (the Cincinnati area code) career catches and 6,000 career yards.

Getting to a Super Bowl, especially after so many struggles early in his career, was a lasting memory he will forever be grateful to have been a part of achieving. He called it the most rewarding experience he’s had.

“It’s huge,” Boyd said. “I was just glad to be a part of such a prestigious team, you know, just to see where I started and then how it ended was kind of surreal. It’s kind of a movie because we started super low, wasn’t good enough, and I stuck around. I always continued to battle and make plays and be there for my teammates and our team. We got different players in and we got good, and we ended up making runs to the Super Bowl, AFC Championship and ... it was just something I’ve always wanted. And now I’m at this stage in my life, I’m not sure what’s gonna happen.”

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