The most intriguing piece of the new-look Bengals offense fell into place Monday when the club announced the signing of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, its first-round pick.
It's believed the two sides had reached the deal Friday, but it wasn't signed until Monday afternoon as Eifert wrestled with the Wi-Fi at his lake house near his beloved golf course of Glendarin Hills Club that is on the outskirts of his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind.
Eifert, a tight end from Notre Dame taken with the 21st pick, is in the fold for four years and per the collective bargaining agreement the club has the right to tender him to a fifth year.
The 6-6, 250-pound Eifert is the reigning John Mackey Award winner given annually to the nation's top college tight end. After finishing his career on top of Notre Dame's all-time tight ends list with 140 catches, Eifert is projected as a receiver-type and quickly flashed his versatility during the Bengals spring camps when he lined up in a variety of spots.
His sense matches the expectations of everyone in Bengaldom, ranging from offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to the fans. The tandem of Eifert and two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham is potentially Cincinnati's best 1-2 punch ever at the position.
All Eifert knows is that he got plenty of work in the spring camps.
"I don't know how much it goes into OTAs as far as the coaching decisions and how similar they are to the regular season will," Eifert said Monday. "But if it's any indication, I took a lot of reps. We ran a lot of two tight-end formations. As far as I know, I think I'll be able to get on the field and contribute here."
The Bengals, who have a rich heritage at tight end with four Pro Bowlers for a total of 10 selections, are looking at potentially their most production there in more than 30 years.
The club record for most catches by the first two tight ends is the 84 rung up by the 1981 AFC champions with Dan Ross's 71 still the Bengals tight end record. M.L. Harris accounted for the rest in a passing game that rode Ross and the club's first-ever 1,000-yard receiving season from rookie wide receiver Cris Collinsworth.
In 1980, Ross also led the Bengals with 56 catches and teamed with Don Bass for a total of 88, but Bass was also listed as a wide receiver.
At the very least Gresham and Eifert should threaten the Marvin Lewis record of 72 of last season, when Gresham caught 64 balls and rookie Orson Charles had the rest. And it could/should/would be the first time in franchise history two tight ends had at least 30 catches in the same season.
Eifert certainly seemed comfortable in May and June lining up all over the place. But then, that's what he did at Notre Dame. Except with the Bengals he lined up much more in the slot than he did in college and liked it.
"I thought it went well," he said. "You're running more intermediate routes. Just kind of get-open kind of routes. It's not 'take this many steps and do this.' There's more reading the defense and finding holes trying to get open."
And that's what he did in college and what the Bengals hope he can do here in a West Coast offense he has found similar to Brian Kelly's South Bend system.
"It's minor differences," Eifert said. "The terminology is completely new to me. As far as the routes I'm running and besides some different blocking schemes, it's all relatively the same."
Even though the Bengals signed their nine other draft picks relatively quickly, Eifert said there was no doubt that he would be signed by the July 26 start of training camp. It is believed that the money was agreed to weeks ago and according to Pro Football Talk he got three years of guaranteed salary. All that was left, apparently, was a technicality. PFT reported there is a split in the fourth year between a guaranteed base salary of $765,409 and an early roster bonus in the same amount.