The Bengals re-signed punter Kevin Huber and long snapper Clark Harris Friday, keeping two big pieces of their special teams off of the free agent market.
The Bengals and Simmons, their special teams coordinator, were looking at the possibility of having all of their specialists being unrestricted free agents when free agency officially begins next Tuesday but now the team can focus its attention on retaining one of its two kickers, Mike Nugent and Josh Brown.
Nugent, who set a club record with 132 points in 2011, had 92 points last season, including making 19-of-23 field goals, before a calf injury sidelined him in December. Brown replaced him and went on to earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Month honors. It was Brown’s 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining that gave the Bengals a 13-10 win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 23 and clinched their second consecutive playoff berth.
The Bengals were ranked No. 2 in the annual special teams rankings compiled by Dallas Morning News writer Rick Gosselin.
“Clark and Kevin are key specialists for us, and it’s great to have them in the fold before free agency begins,” said head coach Marvin Lewis in a statement released by the team. “They have played well and are still young guys. They are entering what should be the prime years of their careers.”
Huber is a Cincinnati native who went to McNicholas High School and then the University of Cincinnati. The Bengals chose him in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. He set franchise single-season records in 2012 by averaging 46.6 gross yards and 42.0 net yards on 76 punts. He had a plus-26 ratio of punts inside the 20-to-touchbacks (33-7) and his 11 punts inside the 5-yard line were the best in the NFL.
Terms of the contracts have not been released but via his Twitter account Huber indicated his deal is for five seasons.
Harris has not been charged with an unplayable snap in his 552 chances since joining the Bengals as a free agent in Week 6 of the 2009 season, replacing Brad St. Louis.
The signings bring the Bengals down to 20 potential unrestricted free agents, including franchise-tagged defensive end Michael Johnson. They announced the re-signing of running back Cedric Peerman, a potential restricted free agent, on Thursday.