When news broke of the Bengals signing tight end Donald Lee today, it wasn't too much of a surprise as the Bengals needed veteran depth at the position. For almost every season in recent history, the Bengals have carried three tight ends on their roster thoughout the entire year. With the implementation of the West Coast offense, the Bengals have undoubtedly wanted to keep three tight ends on the roster all season.
Well, despite their desire for a third tight end, Bengals elected to start the 2011 season with only two tight ends on their roster: second-year player Jermaine Gresham and rookie Colin Cochart While both looked impressive in the season opener against the Browns, it was no secret that the team was in the market for a third tight end who had extensive NFL experience.
Enter Donald Lee--a nine-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl Champion. With the team choosing not to re-sign Reggie Kelly and then subsequently losing Bo Scaife for the year to injury, Lee was just the type of player the Bengals coveted. And the team is excited to add him to their offense.
Over the course of Lee's career, he's displayed the ability to block and catch. In speaking to the media on Wednesday, Marvin Lewis explained exactly what he expects Lee to bring to the team:
"He’s a guy who has been a complementary tight end. He comes here from the system in Green Bay – and with Philly this preseason – which is very similar to this camp. So he can, if need be, give us snaps right away. He’s made a lot of plays receiving. He understands protection. He understands his role. So he’s an experienced guy who can come in right away and really give us a threat we may have lost when we lost Bo (Scaife, who is on Reserve/Injured list)."
Obviously, Lee's "role" would be to play behind and continue to mentor Gresham. What's not so obvious at this point is where exactly Lee is on the depth chart. With Lewis alluding to the fact that Lee would be giving the team what they lost in Scaife, one would think that with Lee would become the backup. Regardless of his experience, Lewis still didn't make this clear if that definitively makes Lee the backup or number three tight end.
The Bengals' staff has raved about Cochart's play thus far, especially his ability to block. In short-yardage formations last week against the Browns, they used an offensive lineman as a third tight end. We're sure that all three tight ends will be rotated in and out throughout the course of a game as is standard in this type of offense, it's just unclear as to how often Lee will see the field. Either way, it's a solid signing for the team and their coaches are excited about it.