For the first time in his NFL career, Eifert played in all 16 games in 2019. The rest of his season can be described as quiet success at best. His numbers didn’t jump off the page, but thanks to his increased play time, he was able to put up statistics that rank near the top for him in his career.
Eifert had 43 catches on 63 targets this season, both of which were second-most for him in a single season. His 436 receiving yards were third-most in a single season.
Eifert’s quality numbers came almost entirely because he played in so many games last season. His per-game and per-reception averages were less than stellar: he averaged 27.3 receiving yards, which was the second worst average of his career. His yards per reception (10.1) and yards per target (6.9) numbers were also career lows.
At the moment, it seems as though he’ll forever be chasing the success of 2015 — a year in which he led all tight ends in receiving touchdowns, and finished in the top 20 among all tight ends in receptions, targets and receiving yards.
He’s been a far cry from that version of himself ever since. From 2016-18, he played in just 14 games total, catching just 48 passes, and scoring just six touchdowns.
Eifert has had a lot of uncertainty throughout his career, but after a year in which he was more healthy than ever before, it seemed like the Bengals might actually re-sign him, especially after 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample never proved he can be relied on in a bigger role.
What likely killed those hopes is Cincinnati already committing $7.8 million to C.J. Uzomah in base salary alone over the next two years, plus incentives that could total over $2.5 million per year. Uzomah started in all 16 games last season but was not featured in the passing game as much as Eifert.
The Bengals are certainly in a period of transition, with the coaching staff turnover they’ve had over the last couple years and the next franchise quarterback coming in the NFL Draft, so perhaps they thought this was the time to move on from Eifert.