The Bengals let loose with a curve ball as their draft preparation ended Friday with the anticipated re-signing of fullback Jeremi Johnson less than six months after they waived him with weight issues.
Agent Peter Schaffer confirmed the deal Friday after it was originally reported by ProFootballTalk.com. Schaffer says that Johnson is "focused and ready to help the Cincinnati Bengals in any way and get back to his form of two years ago."
It was three years ago when Schaffer did a deal with the Bengals that made Johnson the NFL's highest-paid fullback before the 2006 season in which he was named the AFC's alternate Pro Bowl fullback.
But he battled weight problems following that season, culminating with his release last Nov. 27 from injured reserve. That's where he landed the week of the season opener with a knee problem, which came after a four-month struggle to get his weight down from about 300 pounds to 265. But Schaffer says Johnson is ready to go and the plan is he'll be on the field for voluntary workouts next month.
After failing to find a veteran fullback in free agency and faced with a thin draft class, the Bengals decided to take another chance on Johnson, a good blocker and receiver out of the backfield when he's in shape. With the Bengals emphasizing running the ball this offseason, Johnson gives them a guy who has blocked for the two best rushing seasons in club history when he was in front of Rudi Johnson in this offense in 2004 and 2005.
The Bengals are still expected to look at fullbacks closely in this weekend's draft, but with more and more offenses using spread formations the college fullback is becoming a vanishing breed.