UPDATE: Bengals sign Ben Utecht to offer sheet

UPDATE: Mark Curnutte writes that the Bengals signed "Colts tight end Ben Utecht to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent". The Colts have one week to match.

Geoff Hobson reports that no deal has been finalized with either the Colts or the Bengals for tight end Ben Utecht. The Bengals push for the Colts #2 Tight End hasn't relented since the start of free agency. Scouts, Inc. (by way of ESPN Insider) rates Utecht as the eighth best Tight End available at the start of free agency.

The Eagles will likely pay L.J. Smith $4.5 million after they put the Franchise tag on him. If Smith signs, and he will, the one-year deal is guaranteed. The Tennessee Titans signed former Falcons tight end, Alge Crumpler, to a two-year deal worth $5 million with a $1 signing bonus. The Rams signed Anthony Becht to a two-year deal with base salaries of $730,000 and $1 million. The Lions signed Michael Gaines to a four-year deal worth, roughly, $10 million. Gaines is coming off his best season catching 25 passes for 215 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Talk about a pay-raise. However, it's expected that Gaines will be incorporated as a Reggie Kelly like tight end.

The Saints and Eric Johnson agreed on a one-year extension and the Titans tendered a one-year deal for Bo Scaife. That leaves Utecht, Jerramy Stevens, Kyle Brady, Kris Wilson, Jason Dunn, Bubba Franks and Marcus Pollard as a few of several free agent Tight Ends. What a weak position in free agency this year. Utecht is definitely the class of the field now at this point.

The Draft? Mark Curnutte writes that Bengals Tight End coach, Jonathan Haynes, was at Purdue's Pro Day. Actually, Cincinnati sent EIGHT coaches to Purdue's Pro Day including Haynes, Jeff Fitzgerald and Mike Zimmer. Fitzgerald is likely checking out linebacker Stanford Kegler. Zimmer could be checking out defensive end Cliff Avril and Kegler.

From the Pro Day on the NFL link above.

" DL/OLB Cliff Avril (6-2¾, 250): Had a 36½-inch vertical jump and 4.31 short shuttle. Ran position drills and stuck with his combine numbers for everything else.

" WR Dorien Bryant (6-9¾, 173): Ran the 40 in 4.44 and 4.45 and had a 6.51 cone drill. Ran position drills and stuck with his combine numbers for everything else.

" LB Stanford Keglar (6-1 5/8, 235): Ran the 40 in 4.55 and 4.56. Had a 39-inch vertical jump, 4.17 short shuttle, ran position drills and kept his combine numbers for everything else.

" TE Dustin Keller (6-2 3/8, 238): Had a 41-inch vertical jump, 3.94 short shuttle, ran position drills and kept his combine numbers for everything else.

Scouts, Inc. gives Dustin Keller high marks.

Strengths: Very athletic pass-catching weapon. Settles into soft spots when reads zone coverage and uses frame to shield defenders from the ball. Flashes the ability to make the tough catch in traffic and has the potential to develop into a productive red zone target. Lacks ideal explosiveness but changes directions well and runs adequate routes. He will generate yards after catch. Shows a second gear when tracking the ball downfield, knows when to turn back to look for passes and flashes the ability to work the seam. Gets adequate hand placement has a mean streak and flashes the ability to sustain blocks. Takes adequate angles to blocks and get into position at the second level. Has experience lining up wide, size can cause matchup problems for corners and is somewhat versatile.

Weaknesses: Is short, lacks ideal bulk for a tight end and can get muscled out of routes by linebackers and safeties. Footwork is inconsistent, takes some false steps and doesn't always get into good position. Doesn't deliver a powerful punch and isn't going to knock many defenders back. Isn't going to make many defenders miss, lacks breakaway speed and isn't much of a big-play threat after the catch. Missed 2005 games with a sprained ankle, played with a broken left hand in 2006 and durability is somewhat of a concern.

Overall: Keller reshirted his first year at Purdue (2003), moving from wide receiver to tight end before his freshman season. He appeared in 33 games (13 starts) in his first three seasons (2004-'06), hauling in 74 receptions for 1,001 yards (13.5 average) and nine touchdowns. As a senior, he hauled in 68 receptions for 881 yards (13.0 average) and seven touchdowns in 13 games (all starts). His receptions per game (5.2) and receiving yards per game (67.8) ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, among the country's tight ends in 2007. Keller missed one game in 2005 because of an ankle injury. Keller is undersized and he will never be a dominant drive blocker. He also will struggle to get off the line at times. However, this converted wide receiver is a playmaking threat in the passing game with the hands, athletic ability and versatility to develop into a quality contributor in the NFL. Teams that like to spread things out more offensively and have use for an H-back type should value Keller in the third round of the 2008 draft.
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