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Bengals mailbag: Tyler Eifert’s future and predicting Cincinnati’s remaining schedule

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With Tyler Eifert out for the season, does he have a future with the Bengals once he hits free agency in March?

Philadelphia Eagles v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s Steelers week after a Bengals bye week that saw some good and some bad happen around the AFC North.

The Ravens lost! That’s good. The Browns lost! That’s unsurprising. And the Steelers handed the Chiefs their first loss. That’s bad. The Steelers now have the lead in the AFC North and it’s up to the Bengals to make the race for the division crown closer.

On Sunday afternoon, the Bengals will have a chance to do that as the team travels to Pittsburgh for what’s sure to be a big game. But first, let’s answer some of your questions!

With Eifert on the shelf for the rest of the year, there are plenty of questions surrounding his upcoming free agency. Should the Bengals re-sign him after five years in which he suffered an injury every year? Should the Bengals use the franchise tag on him? Or, will the team let him walk in free agency?

Knowing what we know about Eifert and the Bengals, I no longer think the franchise tag makes sense. This year, the tight end franchise tag value was $9.78 million. Next year it will be a bit higher. Should the Bengals pay nearly $10 million for a one-year deal for a player who can’t stay healthy? I don’t think they should. I’m all for the Bengals re-signing Eifert to a team-friendly, incentive-heavy deal. That’s all that makes sense considering how often he’s been injured. By season’s end, Eifert will have played 39 of 80 games for which he was eligible in the regular season. That’s less than 50 percent of the games during his rookie deal. With that in mind, the Bengals need to create a contract that takes into account Eifert’s fragility. Maybe another team will offer Eifert tons of money, but the Bengals can’t do that knowing what they know about Eifert’s durability. If you check out the details on Vontaze Burfict’s deal that’s a similar structure to what the Bengals could offer Eifert. Rob Gronkowski’s contract with the Patriots is also one the Bengals could look at in considering how to structure a new deal with Eifert.

For reference, Gronk’s deal includes:

  • $5 million guaranteed for injury
  • 2016-17 Per Game Bonus: $31,250 ($500,000, 15 LTBE in 2016, 8 LTBE in 2017)
  • 2018-19 Per Game Bonus: $750,000 ($46,875 per game)
  • 2017 Incentives all Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE)

- 70% snaps OR 60 rec/800 yards OR 10 TD: $1M
- 80% snaps OR 70 rec OR 1,000 yards OR 12 TD: $3M
- 90% snaps OR 80 rec/ 1,200 yards, 14 TD OR All Pro selection: $5.5M

That helps to protect the Patriots when Gronk is injured, and Gronk has already missed one game this year due to injury. Tight ends get hurt, a lot. And unfortunately, Eifert gets hurt more than your average NFL tight end.

My record prediction skills are horrible; let’s get that out of the way. One week before the season began, I predicted the Bengals would go 11-5. I no longer believe that (though for those who do, I love your optimism).

Here’s a look at the remaining games:

Week 7 at Steelers, Sunday, October 22 2017, 4:25 p.m. ET

Week 8 vs Colts, Sunday, October 29, 2017, 1:00 p.m. ET

Week 9 at Jaguars, Sunday, November 5, 2017, 1:00 p.m. ET

Week 10 at Titans, Sunday, November 12, 2017, 1:00 p.m. ET

Week 11 at Broncos, Sunday, November 19, 2017, 4:25 p.m. ET

Week 12 vs Browns, Sunday, November 26, 2017, 1:00 p.m. ET

Week 13 vs Steelers, Monday, December 4, 2017, 8:30 p.m. ET

Week 14 vs Bears, Sunday, December 10, 2017, 1:00 p.m. ET

Week 15 at Vikings, Sunday, December 17, 2017, 8:30 p.m. ET

Week 16 vs Lions, Sunday, December 24, 2017, 1:00 p.m. ET

Week 17 at Ravens, Sunday, December 31, 2017, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Bengals currently sit at 2-3, but somehow, I could see the team winning six or seven more games. It won’t be easy, but, I think the Bengals will go 1-1 against the Steelers, sweep the Browns (already beat them once), beat the Colts, Broncos, Bears and split with the Ravens (already lost to them once). That would be six wins. And, maybe the Bengals could win one game among those against the Jaguars, Titans, Vikings and Lions.

The Jaguars are pretty much good every other week. They have won, then lost and then won and then lost and then won and then lost. SERIOUSLY. And when they’re good, they’re GOOD. And when they’re bad, they’re BAD. When the Bengals play them in Week 9, they're scheduled to win, based on the pattern. We’ll see if that holds up.

So, I’m going to say I see the Bengals’ record being 8-8 or 9-7 and even if they lose to the Steelers this week, things still could be OK. And, if the Bengals beat the Steelers this week, that would be FANTASTIC. But again, I’m clearly a horrible schedule predictor. So, there’s that.