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Bengals Retain Playoff Hero B.J. Hill: 'We're Going To Have Even More Fun This Year'

B.J. Hill (92) points home.
B.J. Hill (92) points home.

Thanks to Monday's reported three-year deal, B.J. Hill's two-year-old son is going to a Cincinnati kindergarten some day soon with a song or two.

"He can't wait to get back to Cincinnati," said Hill, the Bengals defensive tackle who is headed here Tuesday himself to sign the contract and start looking for a house. "He knows all the words to the touchdown song. All the touchdown songs.

"Are you kidding? Of course I'm looking for a house. No more six months in one place. This is home all year-round for three-plus years."

Such was Monday, the first day of NFL free agency.

Hill, a Bengals playoff hero who left New York to find a home in the postseason, is settling down in Cincinnati. Tight end C.J. Uzomah, the Bengals team leader with the big city personality, is Jetting to New York

"Halfway through the season, I knew I wanted to come back here and play," said Hill after everyone had reported he had taken that three-year deal for $30 million. "We had fun last year. We're going to have even more fun this year."

The team is expected to make it official Tuesday as Hill becomes the fourth and final piece of a gold-plated defensive line. Off a career-best 5.5 sacks and a handful of huge snaps in the playoffs, Hill settles in as the starting three technique next to nose tackle D.J. Reader.

The Bengals came into the day knowing they needed to keep either Hill or starting three technique Larry Ogunjobi while also getting a starting center and guard.

They did all that even as Ogunjobi shocked the market with a three-year, $40.5 million deal in Chicago.

At the end of business Monday, Uzomah raised some eyebrows when he took what was reported as a three-year, $24 million deal with a Jets team that has won 27 games in the last six seasons.

Suffice to say the Bengals weren't quite ready to match those numbers for a tight end on a three wide-receiver team and for a three technique on a defensive line that had three other starters counting about $35 million against the $208 million salary cap.

They'll replace Ogunjobi's seven sacks and Uzomah's career-high 493 yards and five touchdowns most likely by committee in a project for the coming weeks. They'll have a harder time replacing Uzomah's charisma and leadership in the locker room.

But they won't have to replace Hill's uncommon productivity and flair for the big moment.

Five months to the day the Bengals got him in a trade from the Giants for backup center Billy Price on the eve of the regular season, Hill tipped Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' pass to himself late in the third quarter for the interception that set up the Bengals' tying scores on their way to the Super Bowl in the overtime AFC title game win in Kansas City.

In between getting the call Aug. 30 in New York and Jan. 30 in K.C., Hill tied his rookie season high for sacks in 502 snaps backing up Ogunjobi in a lethal rotation. When Ogunjobi broke his foot in the Wild Card, Hill took off in the postseason with 1.5 sacks, The Pick and 78 percent of the snaps in a Super Bowl the Rams had 1.9 yards per 23 rushes.

"It's been a wild month trying to take time off after the Super Bowl and spending time with family and not knowing where I'm going to be," Hill said. "But I wouldn't change a thing.

"I knew I wanted to come back. Just the people in the building, the energy each and every day. From the people checking you in, taking your temperature, checking your tracker, to the coaches, to my teammates, I just enjoyed being around the people. And it all worked out perfectly."

When Hill arrived out of the blue, he had a ready-made support system. His North Carolina State roommate and offseason neighbor in Charlotte, N.C., Germaine Pratt, was one of the starting linebackers. When the scouts told defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo they had pulled off the trade, he high-fived all the way around because Anarumo had been exposed to Hill's all-out play and length as the secondary coach for the Giants. A North Carolina native, so were Reader and Ogunjobi. And defensive line coach Marion Hobby was well aware of him as a former Clemson coach.

"Larry's a great player and I'm happy for him. He got a great deal today. We would have loved to have had him back, but I'm proud of him," Hill said. "We've got a great coach in Coach Hobby. He's out there trying to make you better each and every week. I can't wait to get back there and play with those guys again."

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