The Cincinnati Bengals will likely be making several roster moves this week in light of Andy Dalton's injury, but this one is unexpected.
The team announced Tuesday that linebacker/defensive end Chris Carter has been waived; no corresponding move has yet to be made. That means the Bengals' roster now stands at 52 players with the freed-up spot likely to be filled by a quarterback in the coming hours.
Carter, a fifth-year player, was in his first full season with the Bengals after being signed in December of last season. He went on to appear in three games, mostly in special teams roles. Carter originally entered the NFL in 2011 as a fifth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent his first three seasons with the Steelers before joining the Indianapolis Colts for one game in 2014 before being waived.
This season, Carter was faced with a tough task of earning a roster spot with both outside linebacker and defensive end being deep with capable players. Carter spent most of his NFL career playing as an outside linebacker in 3-4 defenses, and finding a role for him in Cincinnati was no easy task.
Carter ended up becoming essentially a nickel pass-rusher who was getting almost all of his snaps in obvious passing situations. He got a little over 100 defensive snaps this season while also appearing on special teams. He accounted for only 10 tackles and no sacks after finishing with 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble in the preseason.
Still, Carter was as expendable of a player as could be found on the roster, and it didn't help that other players were starting to get more snaps. Most notably, Margus Hunt has seen an increase in playing time as the season has wore on. This past Sunday against the Steelers, Carter played only two defensive snaps, whereas Hunt played in 11 snaps. In the Week 13 win over the Cleveland Browns, Hunt played 15 snaps vs Carter's 12.
At this point, the Bengals will likely be signing a quarterback to fill Carter's spot on the roster with a variety of candidates already known. Keith Wenning is sitting on the practice squad and has for the entire regular season. He knows the offense as well as any player the Bengals will find on the free agent market, so it would make the most sense to have Wenning as the backup this week.
However, the Bengals will almost certainly want a veteran quarterback also on the roster, if for nothing else than to help new starter AJ McCarron get adjusted to life as a starting NFL quarterback. Free agent Christian Ponder is among the confirmed names the Bengals have worked out.
With Carter now gone, the Bengals are down to Hunt, Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Michael Johnson, and Will Clarke at defensive end in addition to Emmanuel Lamur, Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict, P.J. Dawson and A.J. Hawk at outside linebacker.