I’m going to be honest with you guys. The Cincinnati Bengals’ offseason has been pretty boring so far for the most part. It’s been very difficult to try to give them coverage equal to that of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ other division rivals, the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens, both of whom definitely have some interesting storylines going on this offseason.
It’s been hard to track down compelling bits of information pertaining to the team other than the Steelers that has most recently won the AFC North. But I think I finally have one today, and it’s honestly nothing new.
The Bengals knew they were taking a very talented player when they drafted tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. What they didn’t know is that he would spend more than half of his career off the field nursing injuries.
Eifert, who was a Pro Bowler in 2015, leading the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions that year, has struggled with back, ankle, and concussion issues over the past two years. He completed his fifth-year option in 2017, through injury, and the Bengals gave him another opportunity on a one-year deal this offseason.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been healthy, to nobody’s surprise. Head Coach Marvin Lewis has been predictably rather vague when it comes to updating his status—teams are not required to divulge injury information until the start of the regular season—but he had to concede, as minicamp drew to a close, that he didn’t know if his tight end would be ready to start training camp.
According to Ian Rapoport, it is believed that Eifert may have tweaked a back injury that has been a recurring problem for years, and that he has had surgery on multiple times, including this offseason. To be more specific, he has already had three surgeries on his back.
The hope was of course that he would come in and have a great season and prove to be the sort of franchise player that merits a long-term contract extension that would make both the player and the team happy.
The early signs don’t point to that happening if the Bengals are not even sure if he will be able to participate at the start of training camp with a back injury that has been a repeated issue over the course of several years.
Since his 2015 season—in which he still only played 13 games—Eifert has only taken the field for 10 games over the past two years, including just two in 2017. He has caught 33 passes for 440 yards and five touchdowns in those 10 games, all five of the scores occurring in 2016. He has 127 receptions for 1537 yards and 20 touchdowns in 39 career games played. He has missed 41 games due to injury.