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Tyler Kroft ready to build off breakout 2017 season, not worrying about contract

Kroft hopes to remain a big part of the Bengals offense in Year 4. Will it be his last in stripes?

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have a lot of questions at the tight end position, now and for the future.

Now, the question is if Tyler Eifert can step up and get back to the Eifert we saw dominated the league in 2015, or if he’ll remain the injury-prone player that’s rarely been on the field in three of the last four seasons.

Then you’ve got Tyler Kroft, a promising backup who shined with Eifert out in 2017, but both are entering contract years in 2018. In an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Kroft opened up about his contract, as well as how he hopes to build off his breakout 2017 season.

“There’s definitely momentum off of (2017),” said Kroft . “I think I’ve done a good job learning and understand the offense as much as I can. Just the confidence level is up there and I think there is confidence between me and Andy (Dalton) and the coaching staff because Bill (Lazor) is still here and he saw it. It’s exciting.”

Kroft knows how important a contract year can be, but he’s simply trying to stay focused on being the best player he can be for the Bengals.

“It’s in the back of my head but I’m trying not to give it too much thought and try and control what I can control,” Kroft said. “That’s basically how I’ve been trying to think about it. Not get too excited or too down.”

“You could just think of everything and overwhelm yourself pretty quickly. I’ve seen guys get in the tank real quick with just trying to figure it out. I’m trying not to give it too much thought.”

Kroft was able to step up this past season after Eifert landed 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.

That is, until Kroft began to step up and find himself catching touchdowns at an Eifert-like rate. The third-year pro from Rutgers caught 42 receptions for 404 yards and seven touchdowns. All seven scores came over the final 13 games, including two in a Week 17 upset of the Ravens.

That came after Kroft had scored just once in his previous two seasons. For his career, he’s caught 63 balls for 625 yards (9.9 avg.) and eight scores.

It doesn’t measure up to what a healthy Eifert can do, but it’s looking more and more like we may never see Eifert play for the majority of a season again as a full-time player. That could make Kroft the more likely player to be with the Bengals beyond 2018.