Peerman deal looks to be it until after draft

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With special teams co-captain Cedric Peerman in the fold for a sixth season and Cardinals tight end Rob Housler taking a one-year deal in Cleveland Thursday, the Bengals look to be done signing players before the April 30-May 2 NFL Draft.

With 69 players under contract the Bengals are 21 shy of the maximum 90-man roster that they'll all but fill it with nine draft picks and a college free agent class that traditionally draws about a dozen players.

The Bengals could re-visit the tight end position after the draft depending how that goes in the search of a physical blocker that can complement receiving tight end Tyler Eifert. Jermaine Gresham, who filled that role for the Bengals the previous five seasons before becoming a free agent, doesn't look to be an immediate answer but is still in the mix according to head coach Marvin Lewis' observations of late last month.

Housler reportedly agreed to a one-year deal for $1.76 million that included a $750,000 signing bonus, apparently too pricey for the other two AFC North teams chasing him in the Bengals and Ravens. The Bengals were possibly looking at him as a third tight end that could back up Eifert since he isn't known as a blocker.  Even though he had just nine catches in Arizona last season, the Browns needed Housler more than the Bengals because they lost receiving tight end Jordan Cameron in free agency.

But the Bengals have work to do with Eifert the only tight end on the roster projected to make the team, although fullback Ryan Hewitt can play there.

Peerman, 28, returns as the special teams quarterback, where he has averaged 11.8 special teams tackles over the last four seasons and led the club this past season with 15, second best in the NFL.

As the personal protector for Pro Bowl punter Kevin Huber, Peerman helped the Bengals finish second in the NFL's top ten special teams categories, just missing out by a point on the top spot they won in 2012.

"He's a big reason why we've been able to accomplish some of the things we've been able to accomplish around here the last several years on special teams," said Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. "He makes sure we're in the right protection on punts and then gets down the middle of the field on coverage. Plus, on punt return he makes the checks. He's an integral part of what we do. You get good on special teams when you have continuity and he's given us that at a key spot."    

The players report back to Paul Brown Stadium April 20 for phase one and phase two of the off-season conditioning program. Phase three begins with the rookie minicamp May 8-10 and the veterans follow them on the field for nine practices May 26-28, June 2-4, and June 6-8 before the mandatory minicamp June 16-18.

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