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Bengals may prioritize extension for Tyler Kroft over getting Tyler Eifert re-signed

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The Bengals want to keep Tyler Eifert, but it doesn’t sound like it’s a major priority this offseason.

NFL: NOV 05 Browns at Bengals Photo by Mark Lyons/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals plan to sign a tight end to a new contract this offseason, but it may not be the Tyler you’re thinking of.

While Tyler Eifert is set to become a free agent, it may be Tyler Kroft who’s signing a new contract this offseason. According to Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson, the Bengals may actually prioritize a new deal for Kroft over getting Eifert re-signed.

And, yes, they’ll also pursue re-signing a tight end, too. But it’s probably going to be Tyler Kroft and not Tyler Eifert, although they may look at some kind of a reduced deal with Eifert given he’s in another offseason of rehab.

Eifert finished this past season on Injured Reserve after undergoing surgeries on his back and knee to fix the nagging issues he’s been dealing with over the past year. He played two games this past season, and his absence was felt as the Bengals struggled to find openings in the passing game when defenses smothered A.J. Green.

In Eifert’s absence, Kroft made a big impact on the offense, catching a career-high seven touchdowns. But outside of the red zone, he just simply couldn’t produce as consistently as an Eifert-level tight end.

Eifert has never played a full 16-game season for the Bengals in his five-year career with the team. The only reason anyone is thinking of keeping Eifert is because of the player he is when healthy.

In 2015, he had 13 touchdowns and was just unstoppable in the red zone. He helped take attention off of Green that season as well. It was the last season Green had 10-plus touchdowns.

A lot of whether Eifert gets re-signed by the Bengals is probably up to Eifert himself. He wants to hit free agency and see what his market looks like, though it’s hard to gauge what kind of value teams have on him given how injury-prone he’s been.

Eifert may find that either no team is willing to offer him the long-term deal he would like, or that no one is willing to pay him enough for a one-year prove it deal. In that case, returning to the Bengals on at least a one-year contract to prove his value may be the best thing if he is willing to bet on himself.

If he can prove he can stay healthy, then teams would probably be willing to open up their wallets a little bit more.

But regardless of what the Bengals do with Eifert, they should still look to get a new deal done for Kroft. He’s done enough to earn a second deal with the Bengals, and if they extend him now, they may be able to get him signed to a team-friendly deal that allows them to keep Eifert.

It’s not unheard of for NFL teams to have multiple tight ends signed to multi-year contracts, though a healthy Eifert would likely command enough that the Bengals wouldn’t be able to afford to keep him and Kroft in the long term.

The realistic best-case scenario is for the Bengals to extend Kroft to a manageable deal, then get Eifert signed to a one-year prove it deal.