(WKBW) — A little over a week before the start of the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, the Buffalo Bills moved on from longtime starting tight end Charles Clay, which signaled the team hit the restart button at the position. With their first chance to bring someone new into the fold, the Bills went out and capitalized on one of the young players with upside available on the market.
The Bills came to a three-year agreement with former Cincinnati tight end Tyler Kroft, his agent announced. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the total value of the contract is worth $18.75 million over the three seasons and could escalate to $21 million.
Kroft broke a bone in his foot after the Bengals' fifth game in 2018, which ended his season as the team placed him on injured reserve. However, in 2017, Kroft started 16 games in place of the injured Tyler Eifert and compiled 42 receptions for 404 yards and seven touchdowns.
Kroft will turn 27 in October.
Joe B's Take
- With only Jason Croom on the roster at tight end, the Bills were in a distinct position to add to the tight end room. Croom accounts for a minimal cap hit of approximately $570,000, which means the Bills had plenty of cap room to play with in free agency at the position.
Kroft was one of a handful of promising tight ends available this offseason that were just off their rookie contract but didn't make a considerable mark as an established player in their first four seasons. Kroft showed his upside in 2017, but was mostly an afterthought before that and injured in 2018.
A former third-round pick by the Bengals, Kroft moves incredibly well for the position and moves fluidly through his routes. There isn't a lot of laboring when he runs as compared to some other players you might see at the tight end spot.
The 6-foot-5, 252-pound player with long arms represents the prototypical size teams covet in tight ends, which is something the Bills have shown to value in their pickups over the last three offseasons, too. Kroft has demonstrated an ability in the red zone, to come down with contested catches, and to be a competent blocker for the offense, as well.
Kroft comes to Buffalo with a clear opportunity to be a full-time starter if the Bills aren't able to bring in an additional player at the position. However, the addition of Kroft does not preclude them from going after a tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft.
I'd consider adding a tight end at some point through the draft to be somewhat of a likely outcome for the Bills, considering the lack of production from last season. Kroft, in essence, provides some insurance in the form of a starting option should they strike out, and someone to compete to be the starter with the rookie if they can attain one.
Kroft's contract has a bit of a sticker shock effect, considering his minimal production over a four-year stint in Cincinnati, though neither the guaranteed money in the deal nor the structure of the contract has come out. Just like the Spencer Long contract last month, the details will reveal the potential outs in the contract and how much of a commitment the Bills just made.
Considering his lack of production over all four seasons, I wouldn't be surprised if the average value of the contract, $6.25 million, is more than the initial cap hit for the 2019 season. Even still, before the start of free agency, the $6.25 million cap hit would only be the 14th highest in the NFL at the position, which isn't that huge of a figure -- especially considering the inflated cost that comes with this time of year.
Without any options in free agency for a no-doubt-about-it starting tight end, taking a shot on one of the players entering their second contract with upside is a solid, calculated risk. The real value of his contract, and whether or not the Bills overpaid, will come through once the details are available later in the week.