Injuries and ineffectiveness plagued the big man in Orchard Park
Historically, the Buffalo Bills have had little production from the tight end spot. If you were to Frankenstein together the Bills’ best tight end in franchise history, you’d take Pete Metzelaars and his 1994 season in terms of receptions, Paul Costa’s 1967 season in terms of receiving yards, and then one of three seasons—two Scott Chandler years (2011 and 2012) and one more from Metzelaars (1992)— to select the leader in receiving touchdowns.
What would that line look like? 68 catches for 726 yards and six touchdowns. That would be a solid season overall, and it’s also nowhere close to what Buffalo’s tight ends combined to do in 2020. The Bills’ tight ends combined for 42 receptions and 458 yards, though they did combine for nine receiving touchdowns on the year. That level of production was spread among four players.
The Bills attempted to bolster the tight end position via free agency prior to the 2019 season, but neither of those signings really panned out the way general manager Brandon Beane envisioned. While we’ve already discussed Lee Smith, who was number seven on our list, today’s discussion centers on his positionmate.
TE Tyler Kroft
2020 Salary Cap Figure: $5,412,500 (2.45 percent of Buffalo’s salary cap)
2020 Stats: 10 games, 4 starts, 16 targets, 12 catches, 119 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
After an injury-plagued 2019 season, the Bills and Kroft restructured his three-year contract, buying out the third year in exchange for some guarantees and a lower 2020 salary cap figure. Kroft played on just five offensive snaps in Buffalo’s first game, and while he appeared on just above half of the Bills’ snaps in Week 2, he wasn’t targeted in either game. He earned a start against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, and he had his best game in a Bills uniform. He caught four passes for 24 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Unfortunately for Kroft, that served as the high point of his time in Orchard Park. He found himself on the Reserve/COVID-19 list twice during the season, and he was a healthy scratch for all but one of Buffalo’s final eight games when he wasn’t on the COVID list. Given his status as the highest-paid player in his positional group, Kroft would have been expected to do more. If this were a series on great teammates, Kroft would have found himself on the plus-side of the discussion, as he seems like a fantastic human being. Whichever way you slice it, however, a player who earns $451,000 per reception is not a good value.