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Potential Falcons free agent profile: Tyler Eifert

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Tyler Eifert helped win many fantasy football championships in 2015 when he erupted as an overlooked Tight End.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It’s time to take a look at another free agent who may catch Atlanta’s eye when the legal tampering period begins on March 12. Tyler Eifert, your time is now.

Eifert is a former first-round pick out of Notre Dame who was able to carve himself a role as Andy Dalton’s primary pass catching Tight End in Cincinnati. His best season in the NFL was in 2015 when he was voted to the pro-bowl for the first (and so far only) time in his career.

After spending five seasons with the Bengals, Eifert will be allowed to hit the open market in a few weeks to gauge his value as a Tight End who’s effective when healthy, but who’s rarely been healthy throughout his NFL career.

Let’s take a look at if Thomas Dimitroff and the Atlanta Falcons should solidify the Tight End position by looking to sign Eifert this offseason.

The case for signing Tyler Eifert

Tyler Eifert has all of the tools needed to dominate as a pass catching tight end. He has firm hands, is a good route runner, is definitely an exceptional athlete and an absolute physical mismatch. The Notre Dame product stands at 6’6 and 255 pounds (according to NFL.com) and runs a 4.68 40-yard dash time (the same as Rob Gronkowski). His blocking is also exceptional. If you were to build a physically dominant tight end in a lab, he would look something like Eifert.

Due to injuries throughout his career, 2015 is the best year to look at when gauging what Eifert can do when healthy. He had 13 touchdown receptions that season (one less than the league leaders), on his way to making the Pro Bowl. He was Cincinnati’s primary red zone threat and was unguardable one on one in the end zone due to his physical advantages over defensive players.

In Atlanta, Eifert could make opposing teams pay for giving Julio Jones extra attention in the redzone, and could potentially be a touchdown machine. The Falcons certainly could use someone to punctuate drives when they get inside the opponent’s 20-yard line after a season in which they capped off redzone drives with touchdowns just 49.18% of the time (23rd in the league). Eifert, who scored 18 touchdowns in 21 games from 2015-2016, certainly fits that bill.

Because he’s suffered so many injuries, Eifert should come at a discount this spring. Spotrac estimates his market value to be 4 years/$30,440,828: that’s $7,610,207 annually (of course a number of factors come into play here: guaranteed money, signing bonus, how the contract is structured). I don’t think he’ll get a four-year offer from any team, and his final annual salary will likely be closer to the $6.5 million-$7 million range after he only saw the field for 10 games (three starts) the past two seasons combined. Eifert will undoubtedly be affordable to any team willing to roll the dice on his health.

The case against signing Tyler Eifert

Eifert has been downright injury prone over the course of his professional career. Throughout his five NFL seasons, his ailments have included: a shoulder stinger, left shoulder labrum tear, dislocated right elbow, cervical neck stinger, grade 2 concussion, grade 3 pedal ankle ligament tear, back vertebrae bruise, grade 2 lower lumbar back strain, grade 1 knee strain, vertebral disc bulge and knee tear.

As a result of these injuries, Eifert has never played the full slate of 16 games in a season. He started the first 15 games of his career but has only managed to start in 15 out of the next 61 games for the Bengals, following that span of good health. This includes making just two starts in the past two seasons combined. Over the past four seasons, Eifert has only appeared in 24 out of 60 games.

Eifert also has his flaws on the field, when he’s not hurt. Despite being a physical mismatch on the field, he’s never been able to do much damage between the 20s. He’s never totaled more than 615 receiving yards in a season and has a career mark of just 1,537 receiving yards. Even when you take injuries into account, he averages only 39.4 yards per game for his career.

Verdict: Pass on Tyler Eifert unless he agrees to a one year “prove it” deal

Players like Tyler Eifert don’t just grow on trees; they’re a rare commodity even in the NFL. However, the best ability is availability, and Eifert is someone who hasn’t proven that he can consistently stay available.

If I were Thomas Dimitroff, I would offer Eifert a one year “prove it” contract, with playing time and performance-based incentives (similar to what Dontari Poe received last year).

Due to all of the health concerns, Eifert may not be able to find a GM willing to give him a lucrative long-term contract (if he does then more power to him). As a result, a one year contract with Atlanta where he’ll have a chance to prove that he can stay healthy, and be a dangerous red zone weapon for Matt Ryan, may not look like such an inadequate offer.