Current state of fullbacks in the NFL gives Orson Charles an opportunity

Joe Robbins

The Cincinnati Bengals have utilized a tight end as an H-Back since Reggie Kelly. Is that tradition continuing as the league slowly shifts to that philosophy?

John Clayton with ESPN.com writes about the current state of fullbacks:

Want a scary stat? The average salary for a starting fullback is scheduled to be $1.1 million in 2013. That's $750,000 less than the average salary for kickers and $512,000 less than the average salary for punters. The average salary for a fullback is what top veteran long-snappers receive.

Bengals fullback Chris Pressley, entering a contract year in 2013, signed a two-year deal worth $1.515 million last year.

The point?

Salaries are being readjusted away from fullbacks; so much so that the pool for natural fullbacks is declining. Teams have been applying a philosophical shift, using blocking tight ends as backs. Clayton continues:

The rapid evolution of the tight end has made it even tougher to keep fullbacks around. Teams are finding it easier to pay a versatile tight end and let him do the blocking and pass-catching from an H-back position.

Cincinnati has incorporated this method for many seasons during the Bob Bratkowski era, using Reggie Kelly in the backfield later during his Bengals career.

Current Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is experimenting with another tight end playing the H-Back role in second-year player Orson Charles.

"It's a very versatile position," Gruden told the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this month. "If you are a one-dimensional team this day and age it's not going to last very long. We are hoping to do a lot of different things. We already know he can get outside and run routes and catch the ball."

"I'm just embracing it," Charles told the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this month. "The more things I can do the more valuable I can be. At the end of the day, I just want to be on an NFL roster."

Fact is, Charles is a bubble player trying to find a home. Of course, the Bengals could keep four and the conversation ends. However, historically, it's an improbability. His natural position is at tight end, which is currently stocked with talent. His greatest complication will be surpassing Alex Smith, who had an impressive offseason, for the third tight end position.

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