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Bengals roster breakdown, 90-in-90: Tyler Eifert striving to stay healthy

Health is the main focus for Tyler Eifert as he enters his fifth NFL season and a contract year.

NFL: International Series-Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

When strictly talking about talent on the football field, Tyler Eifert is one of the Cincinnati Bengals’ top five players. The problem is, Eifert has been missing from the field far too often in his four NFL seasons to date.

Eifert has missed 27 of 64 possible regular season games since joining the league, which is the biggest issue facing the young tight end. He’s experienced injuries from nearly head to toe: shoulder, elbow, neck, back, ankle. Eifert has battled through more than his fair share of injuries, which is becoming common for tight ends in today’s NFL.

Now heading into a contract year in his fifth NFL season, Eifert is hoping to make it through his first 16-game season, and hopefully more than that if the Bengals can make it back to the playoffs. It’s certainly not a good sign that Eifert has yet to play through a full season without injury, but if he can do it in a contract year, he’s sure to earn a massive payday in 2018.

Player Info

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 255 pounds

Age: 26 (turns 27 in September)

College: Notre Dame

Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN

Position: Tight end

Experience: Fifth year player in 2017

Draft status: First round pick in 2013

Cap Status

In 2017, Eifert will earn a base salary of $4,782,000, while carrying a cap hit of $4,782,000 and a dead cap value of $4,782,000 while playing on the fifth year option of his rookie deal, per Spotrac. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, though, the Bengals could easily use the franchise tag on Eifert is they’re unable to agree on a long-term deal before the tag deadline. In 2017, the tight end franchise tag is $9.78 million, and as Eifert is a top tight end in the NFL, that’s likely close to how much he’ll get paid annually on a long-term deal. We can expect the tag to increase slightly in 2018.

Background

Eifert joined the Bengals as a first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He quickly became a key element to the offense with 15 starts in his rookie year to go along with 39 receptions for 445 yards and 2 touchdowns. Big things were expected from him in his second NFL season, but an injury in the first quarter of the first game of the season triggered the end of his sophomore campaign. Eifert dislocated his elbow in that Week 1 game against the Baltimore Ravens, which followed a shoulder injury suffered during training camp that wound up needing surgery later in the year, too.

Eifert made it back on the field for training camp in 2015 and quickly made it clear he was going to have a terrific season. He was the talk of the town during camp and his 2015 season was one Bengals fans will not soon forget. He had 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns, which led all NFL tight ends. He broke the Bengals’ franchise record record for touchdowns by a tight end in one season and was a major piece to the Bengals' 12-4 puzzle. But again, he didn't make it through the whole season, playing in only 13 games due to a stinger and concussion. Eifert made his first Pro Bowl following the 2015 season, which triggered another series of injuries and drama for the star tight end.

Eifert injured his ankle in the All-Star game, and though it was initially thought to be minor, it ended up costing him the first six games of the 2016 NFL season. And it may have been shorter, but a back injury suffered during practice heading into Week 5 ended up keeping him off-the-field for another two weeks, coupled with his recovering ankle. Finally, Eifert made it back onto the field, but only started two games in 2016 and played a total of eight. A back injury emerged following the Bengals' Week 15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while it's unclear whether is was related to his back injury earlier in the season, it required surgery and caused Eifert to miss the final two games of the year.

Eifert is now healthy and fully participating in training camp heading into the 2017 season. Will he stay healthy all year? History says no, but maybe he will finally buck that trend and help the Bengals earn a winning record and trip back to the postseason in the final year of his rookie deal.

Roster Status

Eifert is the undisputed top tight end on the Bengals’ roster when healthy. C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft have backed him up for the last two years and the Bengals added seventh round pick Mason Schreck in this year’s draft. Eifert’s place on the roster is certain this season, it’s just his future in Cincinnati that’s foggy. Will the team re-sign him before Week 1? Will they extend him before he hits free agency in 2018? Will they place the franchise tag on him? There are quite a few options for how Eifert’s future in the NFL will play out, but all eyes are on the budding tight end to make it through the season healthy in 2017.

Roster Odds: 100 percent.