When it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals and former Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert, there have been some mixed signals from their camp, with early indications leaning toward them not looking to pursue retaining their 2013 first-round draft pick. He has played in just 10 games due to injuries over the past two seasons.
But Marvin Lewis told reporters over the weekend that he would like to try to keep the talented tight end. “There’s going to be risk taken on both sides hopefully something can be done to keep Tyler in Cincinnati”, he said. “I think that’s important to him and hopefully it can get done. There are going to be challenges. He’s been productive when he’s been on the field and sometimes a guy can’t control when he gets injured”.
Since playing in 15 out of 16 games during his rookie season, Eifert has only suited up for 24 of a possible 64 games. All told, he has seen action in just 39 of the 80 games during the regular season in which the Bengals have played since he has been drafted. My rough math tells me that is a bit less than half, which is a pretty bad ratio.
Eifert’s injury history in his professional career began with a stinger that kept him out of the season finale of his rookie year. In 2014, he dislocated his elbow in the opening game of the season. He never played again that year, ending up on injured reserve just a few days later.
The 2015 season showed the sort of player he is capable of being, however. Though he still missed three games that year due to injuries, including another stinger, he caught 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns, proving to be a red zone presence in what also happened to be Andy Dalton’s best year.
But he injured his ankle while playing in the Pro Bowl after that season, and the injury lingered in part because he elected to wait to have surgery, hoping that it wouldn’t be necessary, missing the first seven weeks of the 2016 season.
The year ended in familiar fashion, though, on injured reserve, this time due to a recurring back injury. He also was limited to just two games in 2017 due to the back injury, having now had three surgeries on his back to date.
Still, he was recently medically cleared to practice, as his physician informed teams a few weeks ago, and he is ready to sign with a team after free agency kicks off in a little over a week. “Hopefully all the things he’s dealt with in his back are corrected”, Lewis said of him.
Whoever signs him is taking on serious risk. I would imagine it’s rare for a player to have his sort of injury history only to return to Pro Bowl form and consistently remain on the field. If Lewis were to have his way, however, it would be the Bengals assuming that risk.