Tyler Eifert, the Bengals' star-crossed tight end who can still cross up defensive coordinators with his breath-taking receiving skills, is expected to sign another one-year deal in Cincinnati.
That follows NFL media reporting on Saturday that Eifert has agreed to lend his versatility to new head coach Zac Taylor's scheme. By the time the Bengals figure to announce it Monday morning, Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan may already have their Eifert package installed. Last month at the NFL scouting combine, both called him "a difference-maker."
The reports cap a busy first week of free agency for the Bengals in which they kept their three targets on the offensive side of the ball: Eifert, a more traditional tight end in C.J. Uzomah and starting right tackle Bobby Hart. They also kept incumbent middle linebacker Preston Brown while adding two more potential starters outside of the club in Bills right guard John Miller and Giants slot cornerback B.W. Webb.
They also want to keep incumbent slot corner Darqueze Dennard even with the 2019 salary cap dollars for the six signings pushing $25 million and Dennard looking to secure a more lucrative outside corner spot. Week-end reports have him visiting the Chiefs.
More week-end reports had former first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi signing in Jacksonville while his second-round book-end tackle, Jake Fisher, visited the Texans.
The signings on offense during the first week of the NFL new year are cracking a window into what Taylor and Callahan are looking to do with the incumbents they targeted to stay. Be versatile and deceptive with guys like Eifert and Uzomah at tight end and powerful and athletic on the right side in Miller and Hart.
Taylor is expected to model his playbook on the Rams' scoring machine that featured, in part, running back Todd Gurley's 1,251 yards on 4.9 yards per carry and when they added Miller they got a starter from the Bills offensive line that led the league in rushing yards per game in 2015 and 2016.
Eifert is the wild card as Taylor's plan takes shape, a piece Sean McVay hasn't had with the Rams. The last full season Eifert was healthy he scored 13 touchdowns in 2015 as a match-up nightmare for everyone from nickel backers to big safeties to slot corners, but he tore ankle tendons in that Pro Bowl and he's missed 34 of the last 48 games. After going through back issues following his comeback from the ankle, he suffered a sickening season-ending dislocation of the other ankle last year in the fourth game on a play that ended with his stunned teammates memorably gathered around his stretcher in Atlanta to wish him well.
Eifert projects to be cleared for the MAY OTAs, but like last year's staff, the new coaches figure to protect him and won't over use him.