Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has decided to undergo season-ending back surgery, as first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter links). Eifert went under the knife on Thursday for an operation that will sideline him for four-to-six months. The Bengals have officially placed Eifert on injured reserve.
Eifert, of course, is no stranger to injury, as he’s appeared in only 39 of a possible 69 games since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in 2013. His history of back ailments dates back to the latter part of the 2016 campaign — after missing the first seven games of last year with an ankle issue suffered in the Pro Bowl, Eifert was placed on injured reserve in December after experiencing back pain.
This latest back issue is reportedly not the same one that bothered Eifert near the tail end of last season, but it will likely affect contractual negotiations with the Bengals nonetheless. Scheduled to become a free agent next spring when his fifth-year option expires, Eifert will now hit the open market amidst a sea of health questions. A long-term deal is still possible, but it seems incredibly unlikely that Cincinnati would now deploy the franchise tag — at a cost north of $10MM — on Eifert.
When on the field, Eifert is clearly one of the more dynamic tight ends in the league. In his best season to date (2015), Eifert appeared in 13 games and managed 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. That type of production puts Eifert among elite tight end company, but his availability concerns are sure to reduce his market.
The Bengals will go forward with Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, and Cethan Carter at tight end, while H-back Ryan Hewitt can also play the position. If Cincinnati wants to pursue an outside addition, free agent tight ends include Gary Barnidge, Larry Donnell, Ladarius Green, and Jacob Tamme.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.