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Bengals sign James Wilder Jr. to future contract

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James Wilder could earn a spot on the roster as the fourth-string RB, which the Bengals will need with both Giovani Bernard and Rex Burkhead battling injuries in each of their first two seasons.

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The Cincinnati Bengals are signing running back James Wilder Jr. to a future/reserve contract, the team announced Wednesday morning.

Wilder spent the entire preseason as the fifth-string running back behind Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Rex Burkhead and Cedric Peerman before being signed to the practice squad, where he spent the entire 2014 NFL season. He was the sixth RB behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis before his knee injury sidelined him for much of training camp.

At Florida State, Wilder competed with Devonta Freeman (4th-round pick), and Karlos Williams (projected as a top 5-10 RB) got the bulk of the carries. Wilder had 81 carries for 563 yards and eight touchdowns in the 2013-14 season while helping the Seminoles win the BCS title. He decided to forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

He was arguably the most talented player on the practice squad, but with four capable running backs already on the roster, the Bengals probably wanted to give Wilder a chance to catch on elsewhere. It's unclear if anyone else was showing interest in him, which may be why he's back with the Bengals.