Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has missed the last three games for the Bengals with on going back and knee issues. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter Eifert will have back surgery for the third time in his career, ending his 2017 season.
When healthy, Eifert is one of the best tight ends in the league, averaging 12.1 yards per catch and 20 touchdowns in 39 career games. However, Eifert has only been available for 39 out of 69 career games to date. Eifert has yet to play a full 16 games in a season and will have missed 41 out of 80 career games once the season is over. With Eifert undergoing back surgery and ending his 2017 season it will mark the third time in his five year career that Eifert will play under nine games in a season.
How it affects the Bengals
For the Bengals, Eifert is an elite player but has proven to be very injury prone with long term affecting injuries to his knees and back. The team spent a first round pick, 21st overall, back in 2013 but after this season his contract is up and the Bengals will have options.
The Bengals are not likely to resign Eifert to a big contract with a lot of guaranteed money given his injury history. The team could opt for placing the franchise tag on him, but at a $10 million dollar plus contract the team is likely to pass. Another option for the Bengals would be to try and negotiate an one year “prove it” kind of contract, giving Eifert the chance to show the Bengals and the rest of the league that he can stay healthy.
Early speculation is the Bengals will take advantage of a potentially solid 2018 tight end draft class and target one early in the draft. Some potential draft replacement options for Eifert could including Mike Gesicki from Penn State and Troy Fumaglli from Wisconsin among other options. A rookie combined with other tight ends currently under contract for the 2018 season like Tyler Kroft would give the Bengals solid play and upside at the position.
Another potential option for the Bengals would be to sign a proven veteran in free agency. The Bengals are currently projected to have about $20 million dollars in cap space in 2018 according to Spotrac.com. Some potential veteran tight end options include: Jimmy Graham, Benjamin Watson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, among others.
How it affects fantasy teams
Most fantasy owners in standard size 10 and 12 team leagues have already moved on from Eifert. If fantasy owners haven’t done this already, clearly they should now. In dynasty and keeper leagues, Eifert is still worth holding on to.
With the lack of proven fantasy tight ends currently in the league fantasy owners should bite the bullet and keep Eifert. Even despite his injury history and upcoming free agency status, Eifert offers top five tight end upside if he can stay healthy.
For fantasy owners looking to buy low on Eifert in dynasty and keeper leagues now is the time to do it given his potential upside if he can ever get healthy. In 2015, his best season, Eifert had career highs with 52 catches, 615 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Eifert is an elite tight end when healthy, but he has yet to show that he can stay healthy. Eifert could very well fall in the category of “players who were ‘busts’ because of injuries”. If that is the case, it is a shame, as it is with every player, but given that Eifert is having a third season ending back surgery in his five year career he could be heading for that label.