Next up in our free agency roundup is tight end, Tyler Kroft. Kroft came into this season as TE2 behind second-year player, Dawson Knox. He eventually became TE1 until he missed time due to injuries, which, at this point, seems to be the story of his time in Buffalo.
Kroft will be a free agent for the second time in his career after originally signing a three-year deal with the Buffalo Bills back in 2019. However, due to lack of playing time, both the Bills’ front office and Kroft agreed to restructure his contract. The original three-year, $18,750,000 deal was ultimately reduced to $10,540,447 over two years.
When playing, Kroft wasn’t particularly effective for one of the best offenses last season. He did make some big-time plays, scoring two touchdowns, including the game-winner, against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3. Otherwise, he was more like a liability on O. And at that salary, he wasn’t holding up his end of the deal.
At a still relatively young 28 years old, it’s hard to label Kroft as “washed up”. But based on his performance in Buffalo to date, I don’t see him returning. Let’s have a look at why:
The Obvious: Injuries.
With a slew of injuries, Kroft has had trouble staying on the field for the past two seasons with Buffalo, during which he was active in only 22 out of 35 possible games. This pattern was foreshadowed on his first day of practice with the Bills in 2019 when he broke his foot during OTA’s and was sidelined until Week 6. Kroft followed a similar path in 2020, playing in only 10 games and missing eight out of the final nine (including the playoffs).
Inconsistency and Ineffectiveness
We initially saw Kroft’s lack of consistency during his first season with Buffalo. In two of the games he played, he was targeted four times, caught two passes in one of them and only one in the other. He improved steadily in 2002, reeling in 12 of the 16 passes that were thrown in his direction. That’s a much better catch percentage than Dawson Knox, though Knox got almost three times more targets than Kroft. That could be credited to Josh Allen and his incredible improvement last season or Kroft’s inability to stay healthy, but the blame goes both ways, maybe more towards Kroft.
Plus, he’s responsible for one of the worst called interceptions I have ever seen.
His reception totals may have increased, but his overall impact just wasn’t there. Brandon Beane even *subtly* called out both him, Knox, and the rest of the tight end room for their lack of input after the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs:
“At the end of the day we’d love to have a guy like we just faced in Kansas City but they don’t come very often but that’s what you want. We got some guys here we want to continue to develop and see what happens. Obviously if there are ways to add competition whether it’s free agency or the draft you know we would do that as well.”Brandon beane
An important statistic to keep in mind was the total yardage that the four tight ends-Kroft, Knox, Lee Smith, and Reggie Gilliam-had this year. They ranked 31st in receiving yards by tight ends with 458. Kroft roughly contributed 26% of that. These numbers do not help his case for getting re-signed.
Tyler Kroft’s AAV currently sits at $6.25 million. There’s a slim-to-none chance the Bills re-sign Kroft at anywhere near that salary level. Though one of the league’s highest salaries for a tight end at the time, Beane & Co. regretted that decision one year into the deal and restructured it to two. Expect Kroft to have his AAV drop by three or four million dollars.
Tight end is a very important position in the NFL. Kroft is not bad by any means at what he does. In fact, there were multiple games where he proved himself as TE1. Like the rest of us, however, whether you’re a professional football player or an underpaid blogger, everyone has their flaws. Kroft has simply had a very hard time staying on the field for the Bills and is not that involved when he does play. Perhaps that could be said about the entire tight end group as a whole, but even Lee Smith was slightly more involved than Kroft. And for that reason…
Stay or Go: Go
What Will Probably Happen: Signs a one or two-year veteran minimum deal somewhere else.
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- Contract and cap room numbers courtesy of Spotrac and Over The Cap.
- Image courtesy of Harry Scull Jr.
- AAV numbers courtesy of Bills Wire USA Today
- Stats courtesy of ProFootballReference