The Buffalo Bills need to upgrade their offense. After the team released veteran tight end Charles Clay, the Bills created another area in need of filling. That’s not to say the Bills erred in releasing Clay—the move was both necessary and expected, as he had a career-worst season in 2018 and was set to count $9 million against the salary cap in 2019. Even if Clay were to have remained on the roster, the Bills would have been in the market for an upgrade.
Scouring the free-agent market can be a scary thing, as most players allowed to test the waters have some sort of warts that would make their current teams hesitant to re-sign them. With Tyler Eifert, the former first-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013, those warts are quite well known.
While Eifert may represent a high-risk option at the tight-end position, the upside of such a move is tremendous. In a field of free-agent tight ends sure to draw attention from Buffalo, Eifert is definitely worth a look. Here are some of the pros and cons of pursuing the oft-injured tight end.
Eifert is a match-up nightmare in the red zone. At 6’6” and 255 lbs, he has the size and strength to box out linebackers and defensive backs alike. In 2015, which was his best professional season, he caught 13 touchdown passes. Providing a huge target like Eifert for quarterback Josh Allen to utilize in the red zone would be a fantastic add for the young quarterback.
Extensive Injury History
Eifert’s “warts” are well-known, as the Notre Dame grad has spent most of his NFL career injured. He played in 15 games during his rookie season before missing the Bengals’ season finale due to a stinger. In 2014, he managed to play in only one game before dislocating his elbow, an injury that landed him on injured reserve. In 2015, he missed three games due to another stinger. He made the Pro Bowl that year, but he suffered a serious ankle injury during the Pro Bowl, which caused him to miss the first seven games of the 2016 season. He was placed on injured reserve prior to the season finale due to a back injury that required surgery. After playing in two games in 2017, he was once again placed on injured reserve and once again had back surgery. He also had knee surgery to remove a cyst. In 2018, Eifert broke his ankle during Cincinnati’s Week 4 game, and he was once again placed on injured reserve. Eifert has characterized his injury history as full of fluke things, but the fact remains that he has only played in 43 of a possible 96 games in six NFL seasons.
What Will He Cost?
Projecting a contract for a player like Eifert is nearly impossible. He will almost certainly sign a one-year deal loaded with incentives, as his inability to stay healthy will make any team leery of giving him a multi-year deal or much in the way of guaranteed money. In his three seasons of at least eight games, Eifert has averaged a slash line of 40/485/7. Spotrac projects Eifert’s market value at $6.4 million over one year. If that monetary value is full of performance incentives with a low base salary, then allowing him to sign his “prove-it” deal with Buffalo could offer a high-upside signing with little risk for the team. Eifert is an immensely talented player who just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Signing him to a one-year deal and drafting a young tight end to pair with Jason Croom could help the team to give Josh Allen multiple athletic red-zone weapons. Guaranteeing money to Eifert is going to be risky regardless of the amount, but if the player is willing to bet on himself, Buffalo could be a great destination for him. If he were to stay healthy, then Eifert would be a great addition to Buffalo’s offense.