Kevin Huber isn't going anywhere, but the Bengals signed a punter Wednesday to share the load in training camp when they inked former Jet T.J. Conley after a tryout at Paul Brown Stadium.
The 6-3, 215-pound Conley has played just one season in the NFL since the Jets signed him as a free agent of Idaho in 2009. But that 2011 was a good one. Conley's 38.8-yard net average was the highest in Jets history and his plus-26 differential on inside-20s to touchbacks was tied for third in the NFL. Yet he didn't hook on with the Jets in 2012 or the Browns in 2013 during the preseasons.
"Competition is something we're really stressing this year," said Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. "He's a guy we've had in here to work out a couple of times before and we told him, 'Who knows? Maybe the third time is the charm.' ...That's the story of these guys' careers. They've got talent but it's a matter of finding the consistency."
Huber is clearly the man here, but it could work out for Conley, too, if he gets into the preseason games and shows well on tape for other teams.
By all accounts Huber is on track to have a normal spring and preseason after last year ended for him in the 13th game with a broken jaw and hairline fracture of the cervical vertebrae in Pittsburgh. Huber, 28, is heading into his sixth season just a year removed from setting the club season records for gross and net punting to earn a multi-year extension after the 2012 season. He followed that up last year by becoming the first Bengal punter to win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week when his 75-yard punt in San Diego tied another franchise record.
Conley's signing gives the Bengals 71 players, 19 below the roster limit of 90. Nine of those are reserved for picks in next month's draft, which means it's going to be a relatively small free-agent rookie class.