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Quick Hits: Special Teams Ace Akeem Davis-Gaither's Big Return; 3-Year Deal Right At Home For Drew Sample; Inking A Deal With Bengals Ownership

LB Akeem Davis-Gaither celebrates during the third quarter of the 2022 season AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, January 29 2023.
LB Akeem Davis-Gaither celebrates during the third quarter of the 2022 season AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, January 29 2023.

Multiple reports have the Bengals agreeing with backup linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither to a one-year deal. One report has special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons ecstatic.

"He's an extension of me out there," said Simmons of his core teamer as the first day of free agency was about to come to an end Monday night. "He's an integral part of what we do as far as playing and leadership. I'm really happy having him back and to keep going with what we're trying to do here."

The relationship goes back to when the Bengals coaches appointed Appalachian State's Davis-Gaither the captain of the South defense early in the week they coached the 2020 Senior Bowl. They immediately recognized the qualities of a coach's son and the son of Keith Gaither, the special teams coordinator/running backs coach at the University of Virginia, has translated them to the pros.

He bit the bullet last season and still played 13 games despite missing a month with a knee injury. The year before that he doubled up in a few games, like against the Jets, when he helped spark a win with a career-high 13 tackles.

Other than kick or punt returner or gunner, you're liable to see him anywhere.

"You see that in his preparation every day and the way he works at it," said Simmons of the coach's son. "The thing with him is his position flexibility. He plays so many different positions and at a high level. He can pretty much do anything we ask."

SAMPLE OF HOME: With reports that the Bengals have agreed to terms with free agent tight Mike Gesicki, Drew Sample's three-year contract extension assures he'll have an old hand with the offense in the position room.

The Bengals also wrapped up backup tackle-guard Cody Ford and backup running back Trayveon Williams before free agency began Monday with both signing one-year extensions.

Sample, who turns 28 next month, earned the multi-year deal when he bounced back from tearing the MCL and PCL in his knee and missing all but two games in 2022 with a solid effort last season as the Bengals' best blocking tight end.

He played 46% of the snaps with those 497 plays, marking Sample's most plays in a season since starter C.J. Uzomah suffered a year-ending injury in the 2020 opener. And more than half of those snaps came in the final seven games as he helped old college teammate Jake Browning quarterback the Bengals to a 4-3 finish in place of the injured Joe Burrow.

According to Pro Football Focus, only four tight ends had more than Sample's 84 pass blocks. Working out of a variety of spots, Sample allowed four pressures, third fewest among tight ends with at least 60 pass blocks, many in the backfield.

"In college, I did some of that. My versatility is something I'm proud of. I can do different things. I can block from different places," Sample said. "That's value to our system. In six years, our offense is always evolving and me knowing that I can evolve in whatever the run game has to be, whatever the play-action passing game has to be, that's always important.

"As the season progressed, I gained their trust. It was tough when Joe went down, but we were still in the hunt. I think I played my best football down the stretch against good teams. When you're a free agent after not playing for a whole season, it's a business. What have you done for me lately? And for me to be healthy and play well, I'm just glad to know I'm going to be here."

When Sample came out of the University of Washington in 2019 in the second round, he was head coach Zac Taylor's second draft pick. As a player and a dad, he appreciates the continuity.

Both daughters were born in Cincinnati and along with mom and dad they celebrated the signing with Monday's late breakfast at The Maplewood, a tight end screen from Paycor Stadium on Race Street.

"We have a house here. We live here most of the time. We were able to bring the whole family down to the stadium. That was nice," Sample said. "The kids are always excited to come to work with me. We picked them up at school. They're Cincinnati, Ohioans, which is cool. It's a good feeling to be able to stay in the same place. Especially in the NFL."

T-DUB RE-SIGN: Trayveon Williams, 26, is coming off a career-high 156 snaps on offense and 294 more on special teams. Williams' handyman niche as an occasional third-down back, as well as a kick returner, seems intact on paper as a third or fourth running back.

That's a perilous roster spot, but Williams thinks there's a chance to expand his role in a system and on a team he feels comfortable enough to stay out of free agency.

"I felt like I wanted to be in a place that was very familiar. It was mutual," Williams said. "They wanted me back. I wanted to be back. I wanted to rock with this team, this organization. This group of guys."

After a player signs a contract with the Bengals, and it doesn't matter if it's a new and rich free agent, or Joe Burrow with his NFL-record extension, or a backup running back, they usually meet with club president Mike Brown.

And so it was for Williams Monday morning as the two chatted in Brown's office.

(When Sample signed his deal a few hours later at the office, free agency had begun in earnest, but Sample got to say hello to executive vice president Katie Blackburn and some of the coaches.)

"We sat and talked for a good time,' Williams said. "He was excited I was back. He said he appreciated the time and effort I've put into the organization and he feels like the best years are in front of me. To ink a deal and then to have communication with him, that's a great thing.

"Unlike no other. I always tell other people this is an organization where the whole ownership is at every practice, every walk-through. They're deeply involved. You can't do anything but have respect for those guys."

Williams is spending another offseason as an adjunct law school professor at his alma mater Texas A&M helping teach the course, "Name, Image & Likeness and Athlete Advocacy," from an NFL player's perspective.

"Football is the least interesting thing about him," said Alex Sinatra, a Dallas lawyer and sports consultant who teaches the course with him, in last spring's interview with

"The more I read about him, the more impressed I was. He's an entrepreneur, he runs a foundation that gives back to the community. He's an involved father. And he just happens to be an NFL player."

He hopes to add something else next offseason.

"I've been here kind of full circle since Zac's first draft," Williams said. "Let's go try and win a Super Bowl."

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