UTECHT JOINS BENGALS

Tight end Ben Utecht, a starter for the Colts the past two seasons, officially joined the Cincinnati Bengals as a free agent on Saturday. A restricted free agent, Utecht signed an offer sheet with the Bengals on March 14.

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Former Colts Tight End Ben Utecht Now with Cincinnati

INDIANAPOLIS – For two seasons, Ben Utecht started at tight end for the Colts, contributing to a team that won division a title each season.

On Saturday, Utecht officially joined the Cincinnati Bengals.

Utecht, a five-year veteran who became a restricted free agent February 29 – the start of the new league year – became a member of the Bengals Friday because Indianapolis opted to not match the offer sheet Cincinnati made him on Friday, March 14. The Colts had a week to match the offer and prevent Utecht from leaving.

The move was confirmed on the Bengals' website on Saturday morning.

The Colts will receive no compensation for the loss of Utecht, who originally signed with Indianapolis as a rookie free agent in 2004.

Utecht, who played collegiately at the University of Minnesota, missing his rookie season in 2004 with a shernia injury, then started two of 12 games in 2005, when he caught three passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns.

He then moved into the starting lineup before the 2006 season, when he caught a career-high 37 passes for 377 yards and no touchdown. He also caught five passes for 41 yards in the playoffs following the 2006 season.

This past season, he caught 31 passes for 364 yards and a diving touchdown catch against the Atlanta Falcons.

Utecht, who has 71 receptions for 800 yards and three touchdowns in four seasons, started 28 of 29 games the past two seasons in a Colts offense that often features two tight ends.

Utecht became the third Colts player to leave as a free agent since the start of the league year. Starting offensive guard Jake Scott signed with the Tennessee Titans on March 10, and reserve defensive tackle Dan Klecko signed as a fullback with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.

Six Colts players became unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year: Scott, Klecko, defensive end Josh Thomas, linebacker Rocky Boiman, wide receiver Aaron Moorehead and tight end Mike Seidman. Thomas re-signed with the Colts Wednesday.

Before the start of the league year, the Colts re-signed three potential unrestricted free agents by re-signing them to long-term contracts: safety Bob Sanders, tight end Dallas Clark and offensive guard Ryan Lilja.

The team also released defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland and linebacker Rob Morris shortly before the start of the league year.

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