Tyler Eifert is inching closer toward signing his first non-rookie contract.
With free agency opening soon, Eifert is hoping to cash in on his first big NFL payday. However, injuries throughout his career — including back surgery that cost him most of 2017 — will likely lead to him signing a one-year prove-it deal.
Does that mean the Bengals will be able to keep Eifert?
Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin spoke on that subject while meeting with media at the NFL Scouting Combine. Tobin reiterated the Bengals want to keep Eifert, as he’s just too important to the success of this offense.
“If we can get Tyler Eifert back, we’ll see what the offseason holds for him,” Tobin said. “If he can get on the field and stay on the field, he’s a pretty dynamic weapon, too.”
The good news for Eifert is, despite back surgery and a minor knee procedure last fall, he has already been cleared to take part in OTAs when they begin in April.
That, along with Eifert’s immense potential, is why teams around the NFL will likely pursue him in free agency.
“My guess is there will be interest around the league in Tyler Eifert, because when he’s on the field, he’s a difference-maker, “ saidTobin. “But we’ll see as it goes as to what that interest level is and what Tyler’s thoughts are. That will matter as much as anything.”
This past season, Eifert played in Week 1-2 with one start and had four catches for 46 yards. He was inactive for Weeks 3-5 due to the back injury, which later led to him being placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Eifert is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. The Bengals do have the option to use the franchise tag on him, but after having multiple surgeries since the start of last season, this option is essentially off the table.
If Eifert has played his final game in Bengals stripes, he’ll finish out in Cincinnati with 127 catches for 1,527 yards and 20 touchdowns.
But for now, the theme of his time in Cincinnati is the bevy of injuries suffered in his five seasons. Eifert never managed to play a 16-game season in five years. He has played in just 39 of a possible 80 games.
Saying all of this, the Bengals should attempt to re-sign Eifert to a one-year prove it deal, giving him the chance to make some good money this year and then hit free agency again in 2019. He’s too important to the success of a struggling Bengals offense that has struggled to put up points in the last two seasons, a span in which Eifert appeared in just 10 games.
“We were keenly aware of his absence, and yes, it affected the way our offense worked,” said Tobin. “When he was there, he provided the spark that we needed. I think he and Andy had a real rapport.”
Let’s hope both sides can get a deal done.