During the decade of the 2000’s, the Bengals had one of the league’s best wide receivers with Chad Johnson OchoCinco Johnson.
Johnson entered the league without a lot of hype, as he only played one year of Division 1 football with Oregon State, accumulating 37 receptions. His combine was also rather unspectacular, running a 4.57 second 40 yard dash with a 33 inch vertical jump, and measuring at 6’1” and 192 pounds.
As a result, seven other wide receivers were drafted in 2001 ahead of him: David Terrell, Koren Robinson, Rod Gardner, Santana Moss, Freddie Mitchell, Reggie Wayne, and Quincy Morgan.
After spending his rookie season of 2001 in a reserve role with the Bengals, his career took off with six consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, which included five Pro Bowls and a pair of first team All Pro selections. In 2006 he led the NFL with 1,369 receiving yards, on 87 receptions, and with seven touchdowns.
His peak coincided with a resurgence in interest, and on-field success for the Bengals. After a decade of dormancy, the Bengals climb from the cellar of the NFL coincided with Johnson’s career arc. Johnson was the master of footwork, with his quick, nimble feet seemingly always able to stay in bounds on sideline throws, and deceive defenders on his routes, allowing him to get separation.
Johnson’s silly touchdown antics and even his name change, and re-change, were tolerated and even enjoyed by many Bengals fans, who were pretty excited to have a team worth watching, and a great player too.
Johnson played 11 seasons in the NFL, including 10 in Cincinnati. He finished his career with 766 career receptions, 11,059 yards, and 67 touchdowns. He is a fringe Hall of Fame candidate, although likely behind former Bengals Willie Anderson, Ken Anderson, and Ken Riley in the list of Bengals deserving of enshrinement in Canton.
What is the Bengals’ biggest free agency decision?
It is no secret that the Bengals shouldn’t be worried about many, if any of the players from their 2018 free agency class leaving this offseason.
Most of the players are ones that have failed to sustain success over their careers with the Bengals, and it’d be beneficial for both sides to move on.
There is one name though that keeps popping up when people talk about Bengals’ free agents and that is Tyler Eifert.
ESPN put together every team’s biggest free agent decision recently, and to no ones surprise they picked Eifert for the Bengals:
The adage that a player’s best ability is his availability is a common refrain centered around Eifert, who has never played a full season in the five years since the Bengals drafted him. With substantial injury concerns, testing the market will be a tricky endeavor for him, especially when coupled with what appears to be a steady 2018 class of tight end prospects. From the Bengals’ perspective, it’s important to approach this situation on their terms and not overextend.
Verdict: Offer Eifert a one-year, incentive-laden deal tied to being active for games.
This is a verdict I personally agree with. There is no reason to give Eifert a long-term contract. His health has eliminated that at this point. The Bengals will let him field offers, but they should at least make it clear that they’d like to have him back.
Considering players like Jimmy Graham, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Trey Burton and Cameron Brate (Restricted Free Agent) are all hitting the open market as well, it should dilute the market for Eifert as well. It also gives the Bengals some options as far as replacements if Eifert finds a suitor elsewhere.
There is a portion of Bengals fans who probably feel comfortable with Tyler Kroft replacing Eifert full-time, but I personally disagree. Kroft is a valuable tight end to have. He is a great blocker and he is a great red-zone threat, but outside of the red zone he is almost nonexistent.
Eifert rarely is even an option for Andy Dalton when the team isn’t in scoring distance. That is where Eifert was so valuable. No matter where the team was on the field, he was a constant mismatch, and he drew the attention of the defense.
No opposing defenses are worried about ever bracketing coverage against Kroft. That hurts the receivers who are now dealing with the extra coverage.
Also, it eliminates any plays where A.J. Green doesn’t have the possibility of having single coverage. Kroft is a great second tight end to have, but Dalton needs more of a safety blanket than that.
A one-year deal is something that not only the Bengals would love to get Eifert signed to, but something I’m sure he will find as the best option for himself as well after seeing the offers from opposing teams.
The only reason I’d expect him to move on to another team is if he was going to a team that had a top tier quarterback and a system that has proven to have tight ends produce. I don’t know how serious Rob Gronkowski was about retiring, but if he does, Eifert could be a low-investment option for them at the tight end position. Outside of that, I don’t think Eifert is trying to leave a team that features him so heavily on offense.
It is probably best for the Bengals and Eifert to do exactly what ESPN suggested. Eifert gets another chance at a contract year, and the Bengals get another chance at having a loaded offense if things fall the right way.