Eifert's career with Bengals likely over and it's not as big a loss as you may think
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Now that Tyler Eifert is in need of back surgery for a third time since 2009 his career with the Bengals is almost certainly over, as might his NFL career for that matter, but the team losing the tight end may not be as big a deal as you think it is.
It stinks for Eifert, who was placed on the Reserve/Injured list on Thursday, and I certainly feel bad for him. This will certainly affect his quality of life down the road, and he is a special talent who only briefly in 2015 showed what he's fully capable of doing.
But aside from that one season when he set a single-season franchise for touchdown receptions with 13 and finished with 52 receptions for 615 yards in 13 games, he played in just 26 games otherwise since being taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2013. He had only 75 receptions for 885 yards and seven touchdowns in those 26 games combined.
This season he had just four receptions for 46 yards in the first two games combined, but hadn't even practiced since the second game on Sept. 14 against Houston due to back problems.
The Bengals were 0-2 with him and are 2-1 without him, with the lone loss coming in overtime against Green Bay.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has never put together a game plan with Eifert in it, because he replaced Ken Zampese after the second game.
It's not like a big piece has been taken out of Lazor's offense, at least as he has had to construct things.
It also should be noted (and maybe especially so) that Tyler Kroft has done just fine in place of Eifert. In the last three games, Kroft had 13 receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
Kroft's second of two touchdown catches at Cleveland was simply specatacular and in last week's win over Buffalo he had two receptions for first downs, including one for 11 yards on third-and-5, in a fourth-quarter drive that resulted in a key field goal.
"He had some big catches for third-down conversions and some plays there in the last drive for the field goal - big plays," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "He continues to do a good job and keeps growing. He continues to make positive strides forward.”
It's small sample size, but over a full 16-game season Kroft would be on pace to finish with 69 receptions for 715 yards and 11 touchdowns.
All things being equal from a health standpoint, I would still take Eifert over Kroft. However, Eifert isn't quite the dynamic offensive weapon he is portrayed to be, and once was when healthy. He is assuredly a great target in the red zone, yet he had less than 50 yards receiving in 26 of his 39 career games and had three receptions or less in 26 of his 39 career games.
Playing full-time over the last three games, Kroft had at least three receptions in each game and averaged 44.7 yards per game.
For his career Eifert averaged 3.3 receptions for 39.4 yards per game.
Are the Bengals really losing a signficant chunk of productivity?
Eifert is a free agent after this season and the Bengals wisely chose not to sign him to a contract extension before the season started. They were going to see how he responded to back surgery in the offseason and either come to a long-term deal or slap the franchise tag on him if the season had gone well.
The decision has been made for them.
It's possible the Bengals re-sign Eifert, but it will clearly be at their price and understandably so.
There's also a chance that Eifert may never be able to play professional football again, and if he does it will likely be somewhere else.
I hope he does get that opportunity, but it's hard to believe the Bengals will be missing out on much if he does.