The official signing of Patriots center Ted Karras' three-year contract and media reports of a one-year deal with Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst highlighted a busy St. Patrick's Day at Paul Brown Stadium.
Also back in the fold with re-signings were backup nose tackle Josh Tupou and backup safety Michael Thomas. Tampa Bay right guard Alex Cappa is expected to sign Friday and then the two new offensive line starters figure to appear together for the first time at a PBS news conference.
News that Tupou returned on a two-year helped make Bengals defensive line coach Marion Hobby's day earlier this week.
"Not a big talker. Quiet," Hobby said. "I was pleased with the big man, now. He's smart. He's got a good football IQ. He speaks when necessary. The guys look up to him as a veteran guy."
Tupou, the 6-3, 345-pound land mass who played so beastly for 410 snaps in Hobby's relentless tackle rotation last season, signed up for a fifth year in Cincinnati Thursday and indications are the Bengals aren't done seeking to bulk up either front. With Hurst in for a year to replace C.J. Uzomah, the Bengals figure to have space to do some more business.
Tupou re-joins a line that turned out to be a major strength of Cincinnati's AFC title run in Hobby's first season with them. They lost three technique Larry Ogunjobi's seven sacks earlier in free agency to the Bears, but retained versatile tackle B.J. Hill's 5.5 and his raft of playoff heroics as well as Tupou's brute strength backing up nose tackle D.J. Reader.
The team that gave up the most rushing yards in the NFL in the three previous seasons ranked fifth against the run and Hobby and Tupou were big reasons why.
"Coach Hobby did a good job with our technique in stopping the run," Tupou said. "A lot of guys in the D-line room took pride in stopping the run to earn the right to rush the passer.
"The addition of B.J., Larry, Trey (Hendrickson), those guys really helped alongside D.J. (Hobby) helped me with my technique and made me better with my eyes. He preached next man up. You have to be in the best shape because you're going to play a lot. When you get tired, keep the fresh guys rolling."
Tupou was also an addition after he took the 2020 COVID opt out and he responded coming back in the best shape of his career. He was one of seven Bengals defensive linemen who played at least 310 snaps and shut down the Rams running game on less than two yards per carry in the Super Bowl. Tupou played 21 snaps that night after playing just five in the playoffs because of an injured knee.
Health reasons and wanting to spend more time with his family in California were reasons for the opt-out. He also got closer to getting his communications degree from Colorado in on-line courses.
"Just reflecting mentally. Getting my mind right," said Tupou of 2020. "Just reflecting on the opportunity I have. It's not guaranteed for everybody. After taking a year, it wasn't guaranteed I was going to be able to make the team again. Just sitting back and putting it in perspective."
One thing he changed and it worked wonders was his workout regimen. He knew he had strength and size, so he cut down on his work in the weight room and added more cardio and agility drills as he worked on becoming more explosive.
"I'm happy for Larry and B.J.," Tupou said. "They got good deals. Larry's a big loss … We can (replace him) by committee and B.J. stepped up in the playoffs when Larry went down."
Hurst, a 2018 first-round pick of the Ravens, is looking to re-capture the rapport with Joe Burrow that he had with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in 2020 when he had a career year of 56 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns.
Those were all better than Uzomah's career-high of last season, but he's looking for consistency after he had just 26 catches last year in a season that was plagued by three games on injured reserve. The Bengals underline his athleticism and hands and believe he can come into his own after a career sharing the huddle with two of the top tight ends in the league. He was with Pro Bowler Mark Andrews in Baltimore and last year in Atlanta attention shifted to the fourth pick in the draft, Kyle Pitts.