When the Buffalo Bills released Charles Clay in February, it came as little surprise. The athletic tight end came to Buffalo via free agency after having spent the beginning of his career with the Miami Dolphins. His large contract was a constant point of discussion, as his production, though consistent, never lined up with his compensation.
In replacing Clay, Buffalo tapped into the free-agent market while also investing multiple draft picks in the position. In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile the highest-paid of the team’s free-agent acquisitions at tight end.
Name: Tyler Kroft
Height/Weight: 6’6” 252 lbs.
Age: 26 (27 on 10/15/219)
Acquired: Signed as unrestricted free agent with Buffalo on 3/13/19
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Kroft signed a three-year deal with Buffalo this spring, a pact that totals $18.75 million overall. Of that total, $6.3 million is guaranteed, and of those guarantees, the majority come due in the contract’s first year. In 2019, Kroft’s cap hit is scheduled to be $4,956,250, which is the ninth-highest cap hit on the team for this season.
2018 Recap: Kroft was limited to five games last season due to a broken foot suffered during Cincinnati’s Week 5 game against the Miami Dolphins. While he did not immediately go on injured reserve, his season officially ended in November when the team placed him on IR. In the five games in which he appeared, he was targeted five times, catching four passes for 36 yards. He only managed to play 117 snaps on offense.
Positional outlook: Kroft entered Bills camp as the de facto starter at the position, with rookies Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney joining incumbent Jason Croom on the depth chart. Since the offseason began, the team has also added free agent Lee Smith and undrafted rookie Nate Becker to the fold, as well as former Bill Keith Towbridge.
2019 Offseason: While he may have entered camp as the starter, that didn’t last long—Kroft suffered another foot fracture on the first day of offseason activities. He had surgery to repair the foot and is expected back this season, though it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready to begin the season on the active roster.
2019 Season outlook: Kroft would almost certainly have seen the lion’s share of the snaps as the starter had he not fractured his foot. Now he’ll cede time to Dawson Knox, Jason Croom, and Lee Smith at the beginning of the year, and if those players perform, it will be challenging for him to earn time when he is healthy. At worst, Kroft’s foot forces him to miss most of the season (or even worse, all of it), and the best-case scenario for him appears to be that he’ll be healthy and ready to play by the beginning of October. If he can come back healthy, he provides quarterback Josh Allen with an excellent red-zone target—in his one full NFL season in 2017, he caught 42 passes for 404 yards and seven touchdowns—but with foot surgeries, that return to full health in one season is a big if. The Bills have hedged their bets at the position, but they put an initial big bet on Kroft—of which they’ll have to hope provides some returns.