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The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of something we can possibly “quasi-change”. Marvin Lewis surprisingly signed a two-year contract immediately following the end of the 2018 cheap football jerseys season, yet there has been a bit of a shakeup among the assistant ranks.
Regardless, there are still massive questions with this year’s Bengals team. Whether it’s in those changes, or what the team will do with their roster in the coming spring months, people are anxious to see just how Cincinnati plans to rebound from two straight losing seasons.
Whether it’s in receiving questions on The Orange and Black Insider podcast, or getting reader questions through Twitter and Facebook, fans are desperately trying to cling to positivity right now. Here are some of the topics we received this week.
Who should replace Paul Guenther at defensive coordinator?
Guenther has moved on from Cincinnati to take the defensive coordinator gig with the Raiders under Jon Gruden. Guenther did a decent job with the Bengals’ defense, especially considering the immense shoes Mike Zimmer left, but they never seemed to be a complete group from 2014-2017.
If they forced turnovers, they couldn’t get to the passer and vice-versa. If they could get to the passer, they couldn’t stop the run (see 2017). Injuries played a role in these ups-and-downs, but there still is a slight sense of underachievement from the unit who always seemed to finish in the top-five in all categories under Zimmer.
So far, the team has a couple of in-house options with secondary coach Kevin Coyle and linebackers coach, Jim Haslett. Both have previous NFL experience at the job, with the latter also having been a head coach in the league.
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But, it’s been quiet on the promote-from-within route, as the team’s only interview that has been made public has gone to Detroit’s Teryl Austin. He comes with his own ups and downs, though he only had superstar tackle, Ndamukong Suh, for just one season under his watch. Detroit did block him from an interview for the Packers’ defensive coordinator position, so they value him to some degree.
Outside of Austin, some of the popular names among Bengals fans include Jack Del Rio, John Fox and a few others. Lewis has great personal relationships with both men, particularly Fox, with whom he’s gone on USO tours with in the past.
It won’t be Haslett, as it’s known he’s returning to the linebacker position group, nor do I think Coyle will get the gig, but Austin’s interview speaks volumes. Fox’s future is up in the air, as he is 62 years old and coming off of heart surgery a few years ago. As of now, I’d say Austin is the front-runner, with Del Rio and Fox lingering in the background because of their connections to Lewis.
What should the plan be with Tyler Eifert?
There are some players whose talent level are off of the charts, but for one reason or another, untapped potential continues to frustrate a team and its fans. Whether it’s in legal troubles, injuries, a lack of effort and/or a team under-utilizing said player, many issues can derail even the most promising of sports careers.
For Eifert, his NFL issue is solely in his inability to stay healthy. When he is available and used as the primary tight end, he’s a Pro Bowler and a top-five tight end in the game. Unfortunately that “when” should more properly be labeled as an “if”.
Eifert has played in 41 total games in five seasons (including the postseason), posting 20 touchdowns in the span. Since his being drafted back in 2013, he’s missed more than half of games he could have been eligible in (83) with 42, has landed on Injured Reserve twice (2014 and 2017), and has started another season on the PUP List (2016).
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In one of Lewis’ first interviews since re-signing a deal to remain the Bengals’ head coach, he gave a lukewarm answer, in terms of the team’s desire to retain Eifert.
“Yeah, the club would obviously like to re-sign Tyler [Eifert]. We have always made a great attempt to re-sign our good players,” said Lewis to Dan Hoard of Bengals.com. “Obviously, Tyler’s career is not what he wanted, or what we expected. He has had some injuries he has continually had to overcome, and he is fighting back from some this year.”
For anyone who has any kind of reasonable understanding of football and its financial side of things, two types of contracts should be what the Bengals offer Eifert this offseason. The first is, of course, the franchise tag.
Last year, the salary and cap hit for tight ends was $9.78 million. The 2018 figure seems to be a bit higher than that, and while the risk is high for a guy who has missed so many games, a high-monetary, one-year bet on him brings uneasiness, but with a team who continually has available cap space, it’s a luxury they can afford.
Obviously, the more desirable option would be to sign him to a long-term contract that is lucrative, but only if Eifert hits certain escalators. Because of his talent, he may not accept an incentive-laden deal, especially if another team comes knocking with a safer deal for him.
And, as we all know, sometimes availability trumps any other athletic asset. Just ask Tyler Kroft and his 2017 campaign.
After being somewhat of a disappointment in his first two seasons, Kroft stepped up in a big way in 2017. He had 42 catches (23 of which went for first downs), 404 yards and seven touchdown grabs. This was all in an offense that lacked sizzle throughout 2017.
This is what is making the Eifert decision a little bit tougher. If we are to believe that the Bengals are going to be more proactive/productive in outside free agency this year, perhaps they feel that another cheaper option in the draft is the way to go.
Eifert has also undergone procedures during this past season. It’s not just an injury that shelved him, but it’s the recovery process that the Bengals need to monitor. Anyone who has had back troubles knows how those issues can linger.
I think most Bengals fans would like to see Eifert return to Cincinnati next year. However, it has to make sense for both sides and the Bengals need to be sure they can count on No. 85 for at least a majority of the length of whatever contract he signs.