Cottam tries to catch on

Few teams in pro football seem to value the tight end as much as the Cincinnati Bengals, which may bode well for an undrafted free agent from the University of Tennessee.

Jeff Cottam was a heralded recruit when he signed out of Germantown High School, having been named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year. He was not selected in the recent NFL Draft, however, due to durability issues.

An assortment of injuries limited the 6-8, 260-pounder to nine starts and a mere seven pass receptions during his four seasons as a Volunteer. He caught four balls for 18 yards as a sophomore in 2007, none as a junior in 2008 and three balls for 41 yards and a touchdown as a senior in '09.

Those unimposing numbers kept Cottam from being picked in the 2010 draft but were enough to warrant a free-agent contract from the Bengals, according to

Cincinnati's fondness for tight ends is readily apparent. The Bengals used their first-round draft selection in 2010 on Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma. Gresham missed his senior season with the Sooners due to injury but was so impressive as a junior that Cincy used the 21st pick of the draft to grab the 6-5, 261-pounder.

Just one year earlier Cincinnati used a third-round pick in the 2009 draft on Missouri's Chase Coffman, the 2008 Mackey Award winner as the NCAA's premier tight end. Coffman sat out his rookie season as a pro with bone spurs in his left ankle, however.

The Bengals' current roster lists three other veteran tight ends - Daniel Coats, Darus Hill and Clark Harris.

Coats, a 6-3, 264-pound three-year veteran, started 11 games last season and caught 16 balls for 150 yards. He started four games in 2008 and three as a rookie in 2007.

Hill, a 6-7, 245-pounder, was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Ball State last year. He played in the Bengals' 2009 opener, then spent the rest of the season on their practice squad.

Harris, a 6-5, 257-pounder, is a second-year man out of Rutgers who was drafted and cut by the Green Bay Packers in 2007, then spent four games with the Houston Texans in 2008. He didn't catch a pass for Cincinnati in 2009 but his roster spot appears safe since he served as the team's long snapper in 11 games last season.

J.P. Foschi, a 6-3, 265-pound three-year veteran, started 11 games at tight end for the Bengals in 2009, recording 27 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns. He has not been signed for 2010, however, and is currently a free agent.

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