Earlier this spring, the Jaguars signed veteran tight end Tyler Eifert to a two-year contract worth $9.5 million (with a potential out after year one).
Eifert spoke with the media last week — and when he wasn't chasing down his dogs who escaped his back yard during the zoom call — he expressed his excitement to join the Jaguars.
The most natural connection to make between Tyler Eifert and the Jaguars is Jay Gruden. The Jaguars' new offensive coordinator served in the same capacity in Cincinnati from 2011-2013. Gruden was Eifert's first offensive coordinator in the NFL, and the two enjoyed some success in their brief time together. The Bengals finished 11-5 in 2013, Eifert's rookie year, and the young tight end contributed 39 catches for 445 yards and two scores during the regular season. The opportunity to work with Jay Gruden again was too much to pass on for Eifert.
"It was a big factor," said Eifert. "Me and Coach Gruden go back like seven or eight years. We get along great. I have a good understanding for the offense that he runs and a good feel for it. I was in the same city for seven years, but we probably had four or five different offensive coordinators. Learning a new offense can be challenging at times. You feel like you are never going to get it. Eventually, over time and all the reps, it clicks. Having that familiarity with the offense is really nice. There is some new stuff in here, but being familiar with it and having a general idea of what's going on makes it a lot easier to learn."
While the comfortability of working with Jay Gruden once again was alluring for Eifert, the veteran tight end is excited for some of the new challenges that signing with the Jaguars presents.
In the Jaguars' tight end room, Tyler Eifert, who will turn 30 the week before the start of the regular season, is the elder statesman. Entering his eighth season as a pro, the former Bengal has more experience than any of the other TEs expected to contribute for the Jags in 2020. James O'Shaughnessy was making a big impact for the Jaguars in 2019 before suffering a torn ACL in week five against Carolina. O'Shaugnessy enters his sixth season in the league but has just 21 starts to his name. Josh Oliver, one of the Jaguars' 2019 third-round picks, battled through injuries for most of his rookie season, but the Jaguars expect him to take a leap in year two. Eifert is ready to take on the role of the leader in the tight end room.
"I am excited to do that," said Eifert. "When I first got in the league and looked up and saw people going into their seventh or eighth year, I always looked at them like they were super old. I never imagined actually being in that spot, but time flies, and you learn a lot over the years. For me, being familiar with this offense and understanding it — I have gone through all the installs once a long time ago and all the nuances and how it is taught. I understand. A lot of the things I have learned over the years, I look forward to passing them on to some of the younger guys and just helping them out."
As for working with Gardner Minshew, Tyler Eifert is fired up about that too.
"I have talked to him a couple of times on the phone, and he seems like an awesome dude," said Eifert. "He is taking charge already. We are doing some group stuff and trying to learn the offense. I have not watched a lot of tape on him, but obviously, I saw last year with the mania going on. He seems like a guy that the offense wants to rally behind. He seems like he is kind of a fearless leader, and you need that when you are on the field and the bullets are flying, and things are not going your way. You need that kind of guy that is going to take charge of the huddle and be like, 'We got this.' I think it will be fun to see his growth from Year 1 to Year 2, and I'm excited to get to work with him."
There's plenty of optimism within the Jaguars' organization about the addition of the former Pro-Bowl tight end. While the signing was a low-risk, high-reward move, the risk of injury is ever-present when it comes to Tyler Eifert. Before completing a full 16-game season for the Bengals in 2019, he had played in just 14 games over the previous three seasons. But Eifert is optimistic about his health moving forward and believes having a full offseason to work on his game, instead of rehabbing an injury will help him moving forward.
"You get to a point (with injuries) where instead of your offseason being an opportunity to get better and be in the best physical shape you can possibly be going into a season," said Eifert. "You end up just rehabbing and trying to just get healthy enough to play, which you are behind most of the guys who have been getting better and getting faster and getting stronger. And I'm sitting there just trying to make sure that my ankle feels good enough to run. Going through a rehab two years ago, playing a full season, and now having a full offseason to get my body ready and to get better as a player, I think will be huge going into this year."
Tyler Eifert is healthy for the first time in a long time and excited for the challenges ahead in Duval. If hew is able to take the field with regularity for the Jaguars this fall, his presence will make the Jaguars' offense much more difficult to prepare for. He'll also receive a hefty bonus if he can stay healthy — in 2020, Eifert will make an extra $78,125 per active game and could earn a total of $1.25 million.
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