By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Tight end Reggie Kelly on Wednesday became the Bengals' fifth free agent acquisition and their first on offense.
Kelly, 26, a former second-round draft pick from Mississippi State by the Atlanta Falcons, agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth $6.8 million over four years. He is expected to get $2 million to sign. Paperwork is expected to be completed today.
The Bengals would not confirm the agreement.
Chalk this deal up to Marvin Lewis, the Bengals coach who will have been on the job for two months Friday.
"Basically it came down to the head coach," Kelly said Wednesday. "We had a nice chemistry, a great conversation with him. I felt a good vibe about everything. My wife (Sheila) liked him a lot, as well.
"You can sense a new direction with the team. It's something special. We know good things are going to happen in these upcoming years."
Kelly is expected to challenge Matt Schobel for the starting job and significantly improve the Bengals' blocking and red-zone production.
The Bengals were near the bottom last season in NFL rankings in scoring inside the 20-yard line. Of their 42 possessions in the red zone, the Bengals scored just 19 touchdowns (27th in the league) and 10 field goals.
Kelly, who is 6 feet 3, 255 pounds, has started 47 of 62 NFL games with the Falcons. He is known as a top blocker but also has 69 career receptions for 790 yards and two touchdowns.
He started all 16 of Atlanta's games last season and had 14 catches for 162 yards.
His role with the Bengals, Kelly said, "depends on me how I progress in the offense and how I grow with the quarterback."
Kelly talked with quarterback Jon Kitna.
"He told me how things were changing in comparison to how things were in the past," Kelly said. "These few months things have changed drastically. Everybody's hyped up and excited about next year."
Kelly is a Lewis kind of player - intelligent. He graduated with a 3.3 grade point and a degree in industrial technology from Mississippi State. He made the SEC academic honor role for three consecutive years.
Indianapolis also was pursuing Kelly in free agency, and he said it would have been an "honor" to play for Colts coach Tony Dungy.
Since free agency started Feb. 28, the Bengals have signed defensive linemen John Thornton and Carl Powell, linebacker Kevin Hardy and cornerback Tory James - all of whom are expected to start or challenge for starting jobs.
The team has lost starters at linebacker (Takeo Spikes, Bills), safety (Cory Hall, Falcons) and fullback (Lorenzo Neal, Chargers). A top reserve, fullback Nicolas Luchey, signed a contract with the Packers.
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