The San Francisco 49ers are bringing in another offensive weapon in free agency, this time a tight end fresh off a stint with the New York Jets.
The 49ers have seen plenty of their free agents leave for the Jets since former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh became the head coach in New York after the 2020 season. RB Tevin Coleman, corner D.J. Reed, guard Laken Tomlinson and defensive linemen Marcell Harris and Solomon Thomas are all former 49ers playing for “Gang Green.”
Now, tight end Tyler Kroft is trading the Big Apple for San Francisco. Kroft’s agent, Mike McCartney, tweeted the news on May 23.
“Congrats @Kroft86 agreeing to a 1 year deal with the @49ers,” McCartney shared on Monday morning.
Before the Jets, Kroft spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills after entering the league in the 2015 NFL draft. For the first time in his eight-year career, the tight end will be playing for an NFC team.
The addition of Kroft comes less than a week after the 49ers another free agent tight end in Troy Fumagalli. Kroft has had a much more prominent career in the NFL, but the addition of both shakes up the tight end group in San Francisco considerably.
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Kroft with Bills, Bengals and Jets
NFL scouts were impressed with Kroft when he was entering the 2015 NFL draft, eventually leading the Bengals to draft him at 85th overall in the third round.
But coming out of Rutgers, the tight end didn’t have numbers that jumped off the page. Kroft had only caught 70 passes for 901 and five touchdowns in three seasons, per Sports Reference.
But what Kroft does have is a 6’6″, 252-pound frame that’s easy for QBs to hit. Cincinnati utilized the former Scarlet Knight with then-QB Andy Dalton in his first few years, where he brought down 97 receptions for 988 yards and eight touchdowns from 2015 to 2017 per PFR.
Injury struck in 2018, when Kroft injured his foot in Week 5. He attempted to return later that season, but was eventually placed on the injury reserve according to CincyJungle. Despite decent production, the Bengals elected to move on without Kroft.
In the three years since his Cincinnati departure, Kroft has played 30 games and caught just 34 passes for 363 yards and five touchdowns.
Where Kroft Fits with the 49ers
When Fumagalli’s signing was reported on May 17, there was speculation that the former Denver Broncos tight end could compete with Ross Dwelley for a backup TE spot. With Kroft coming in, that likely means Fumagalli’s best shot is to be the third or fourth-string tight end.
Coming into free agency, the 49ers had Dwelley, second-year TE Charlie Woerner and offensive star George Kittle. Last year, San Francisco kept those three tight ends as the only TEs on the initial 53-man roster.
Kroft has far more production and snaps to his name than Dwelley and Woerner. The other reason why Kroft makes sense on the current roster is Kittle’s lack of redzone scoring.
According to Pro Sports Reference, Kittle’s six touchdowns in 2021 was a career-high while also ranking T-7th for TDs by a tight end in 2021. His presence attracts extra attention in the redzone, and teams have done a decent job of stopping him from reaching the endzone.
On the other hand, Kroft’s overall production pales in comparison to Kittle’s, save for touchdowns. 13 of Kroft’s 101 NFL catches have gone for a score, while 20 of Kittle’s 335 receptions have been for touchdowns.