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Extending Tyler Eifert’s contract should be on the Bengals’ offseason agenda

A look at why the Bengals should try to get a long-term deal done with tight end Tyler Eifert this offseason instead of waiting until next year.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2015 NFL season, Tyler Eifert emerged as the breakout player Bengals fans hoped the former first round pick would become.

Looking at Eifert’s production in comparison to the rest of the NFL’s tight ends, Eifert was truly elite.

  • He caught 70.3% of the passes he was targeted on, which placed him ahead of Rob Gronkowski (60.0%), Greg Olsen (62.1%), and Jimmy Graham (64.9%). Only a handful of tight ends caught more of their targeted passes, but they all had lower yards per catch averages.
  • Eifert averaged 1 touchdown per game, which led all tight ends. The closest in that category behind Eifert were Jordan Reed with 0.79 touchdowns per game, and Rob Gronkowski with 0.73 touchdowns per game. The rest of the field was well below this mark.
  • Eifert led all tight ends with a 25% touchdown rate, meaning 25% of his receptions went for touchdowns. Gronkowski followed in second, at a distant 15.3%.
  • Eifert ranked first in the NFL among tight ends with 73.1% of his receptions going for first downs.
  • Eifert was only one of 11 tight ends to not lose a fumble, while catching at least 50 passes this year.
  • Eifert finished 11th among tight ends with 47 yards per game.

Additionally, the tight ends he trailed did not have an elite wide receiver such as A.J. Green consuming a majority of his team’s receiving work. The tight ends he trailed in yards per game were the top receivers on their teams, such as Gronkowski, Walker, Olsen, and Gary Barnidge.

Among tight ends who had to share work with elite wide receivers, such as Jacob Tamme (Julio Jones), Will Tye (Odell Beckham Jr.), Heath Miller (Antonio Brown), Vernon Davis and Owen Daniels (Demaryius Thomas), Eric Ebron (Calvin Johnson), Eifert led the way.

Yes, Eifert is great, but why both extending his contract now?

Eifert has one year remaining on his rookie contract, which has a cap hit of roughly $2.6 million in 2016. The following season he has an option, which the team will most certainly pick up. And after that, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

The Bengals could wait until next offseason to offer Eifert an extension, but his market value will increase every year they wait.

Looking at the top five tight end contracts in terms of average money shows the consensus top tight end in the NFL, Gronkowski, is not the highest paid tight end. This is because the Patriots signed him several years ago to what was a very lucrative deal at the time. But now, other tight ends are encroaching, and even surpassing, Gronkowski’s average salary.

Here are the current top paid tight ends in the NFL:

  • Jimmy Graham 4 year, $40 million (average $10.0 million)
  • Julius Thomas 5 year, $46 million (average $9.2 million)
  • Gronkowski 6 year, $54 million (average $9.0 million)
  • Charles Clay 5 year, $38 million (average $7.6 million)
  • Jason Witten 5 year, $37 million (average $7.4 million)

A decent, though unspectacular tight end in Clay is averaging 81 percent of what Gronkowski makes, while Thomas is actually making more than Gronkowski. Another great season by Eifert will easily drive his market value to the $9 million range after next season. But if the Bengals can get Eifert locked up long term now, they could potentially save money in the long run, and make sure that Eifert’s best seasons are in orange and black stripes.

With many key free agents this year, the Bengals may not have signing Eifert to an extension on their priorities list, but should they?