The Bengals top three tight ends are on the verge of becoming unrestricted free agents on March 13th if not re-signed by the club. With the re-signing period quickly approaching, let’s take a look at which tight ends should be back with the Bengals in 2019 and why.
With Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, and C.J. Uzomah carrying the unrestricted free agent tag entering 2019, TE’s are a focal point for the Bengals free agency plans moving forward. With each player adding something different to the offense, the coaching staff will have to decide who’s a fit going forward under Zac Taylor and the new regime. Will they want Eifert’s playmaking skills, Uzomah’s grit, or Kroft’s consistency? Let’s take a look at who should return and why.
Tyler Eifert has proved to be a monstrous weapon for the Bengals when healthy. Again, “when healthy” which unfortunately for him has been his biggest achilles heel. Eifert has never completed a full 16 game season in his entire 6-year career. Missing a total of 54 out of 99 total career games (including playoffs) isn’t ideal. In 2015, Eifert played a pivotal role in the offense scoring a career season-high 13 touchdowns earning his first Pro-Bowl nod (in which he got injured in). He takes a ton of pressure off of players like AJ Green forcing defenses to shift his way to honor his presence. When available, he’s nearly impossible to stop and a key component of the offense.
Given Eifert’s injury history it’s not likely he’ll have much of market in free agency. Signing him to a long term deal at this stage in his career shouldn’t be a move the Bengals consider. It’s still an unknown if the new coaching staff will want Eifert around in 2019, but we do know he is “up for staying” if the coaches want him. The Bengals should look to re-sign Eifert to another 1-year heavily incentivized contract.
C.J. Uzomah won the battle of attrition out of the tight end group and showed improvement during the 2018 season. Uzomah was a tough, gritty grinder type of a player for the Bengals displaying toughness all season long while dealing with nagging injuries. He carved out a nice role in the offense showing his willingness to block and get dirty in the trenches. Catching 43 passes for 439 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2018, Uzomah took a nice leap into his development as a player.
With the lack of long term production, Uzomah won’t command a large market in free agency. The Bengals should look to bring him back on a team friendly multi-year contract. Having Uzomah on the roster would provide the Bengals with a much needed reliable tight end who can do it all at and add depth.
Tyler Kroft emerged as an effective player in 2017 racking up career highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns while starting all 16 games for injured Tyler Eifert. He became a consistent go-to target for Andy Dalton. His impact was short-lived this past season as injury took him out early. Kroft was developing nicely as a solid option in the tight end rotation.
Tyler Kroft is a bit of a wild horse amongst the three tight ends who could wind up being unrestricted free agents. He’s showed enough improvement to be worthy of another shot with the team. However, the 2019 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at the tight end position. The Bengals could afford to let Kroft walk and look to draft his replacement to develop behind Eifert and Uzomah
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