Bengals re-sign Hudson; Reader signs with Lions

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals are filling out their tight end room.

A day after introducing former Patriots tight end Mike Gesicki in a press conference Thursday, the Bengals announced the return of Tanner Hudson. Hudson is back on a one-year deal after a breakout season with Cincinnati last year. The Bengals re-signed Drew Sample to a three-year deal earlier this week.

While two tight ends are back on the roster, Cincinnati did officially say goodbye to one of its top contributors of the past four years. Defensive tackle DJ Reader, who is working back from a December quad tear, signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Lions on Thursday.

The Bengals posted “thank you” messages Friday morning to Reader, Chidobe Awuzie and Jonah Williams, who signed with the Tennessee Titans and the Arizona Cardinals, respectively, as free agents. Reader shared a message to fans Thursday.

“Cincy it’ll always be love!!” Reader posted on social media. “I truly appreciate you guys to the fullest. In a time when the world was falling apart you gave me a home! We grew together and made that home better. Much love #98.”

Reader had been rehabbing at the Bengals’ facility, and the organization was interested in a possible return, even after coming to an agreement with former Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins on a two-year, $26 million contract.

The 29-year-old Reader is getting similar money in Detroit, but coming off a second major surgery since 2020 when he tore the quad in his other leg, brought into question his durability and what kind of production he would bring in 2024.

“That sucks because you know who you are as a person and you know how those things affect everybody else, but now you’re gonna have people questioning your work ethic to get back or if you’re gonna do this or if you’re gonna do that, or is this gonna slow him down at this age blase, blasé,” Reader said in January. “And those questions are natural, and they’re valid. This is the hard part. This is the tough part where you have to go in and not really prove people wrong, but really just put the work in and let the work show over time that you are willing to put it in and be exactly where you want to be.”

The Bengals are still on the hunt for another defensive tackle and brought in Teair Tart for a visit.

Tennessee reportedly cut Tart because of effort issues in December, but the Bengals were one of three teams to place a waiver claim on him before he landed with Houston to finish 2023. Tart fits the mold of what Cincinnati needs in an interior defensive lineman, someone who can plug gaps in the run defense and impact the pass rush.

The 27-year-old, 304-pounder finished the season with 24 tackles, a career-best eight of which were tackles for losses, and one sack, and in 2022, he finished with the 17th highest pass-rushing grade (75.9) among interior defenders.

Cincinnati so far has filled some big holes in free agency, though the Bengals still need a right tackle after Williams’ departure. Neither Williams or Awuzie were expected back in Cincinnati.

Hudson’s re-signing seemed imminent after he stepped up into a big role in 2023 while Irv Smith Jr. was injured and then struggling to make an impact in the offense. Hudson finished with 39 catches for 352 yards and one touchdown last season, playing in 12 games with one start.

A fifth-year player, Hudson was originally a college free agent signee of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018. He spent time with the Bucs (2018-20), San Francisco (2021) and New York Giants (2022) before joining the Bengals’ practice squad in late 2022. His chemistry with Burrow made him a good fit to return in 2024.

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