The Cincinnati Bengals made a pair of surprising moves Thursday in hopes of shaking up the defense.
The first came with news that defensive end Wallace Gilberry was being re-signed to shore up the defensive line depth. In order to do so, Cincinnati made an equally surprising decision to waive cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris in order to make room for Gilberry. The Bengals have officially announced Lewis-Harris’ release, but have not yet announced Gilberry’s signing. But, Gilberry’s agent has made it official, as has the returning defensive end.
The surprise is that the Bengals would waive Lewis-Harris, a young talent, over a veteran corner like Chykie Brown, who has been inactive in nearly every game this season. The Bengals had seven corners on the roster, so it made sense to cut one of them, but Lewis-Harris seemed like a better guy to keep over Brown.
Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at all that the Bengals once again chose to go with a known veteran commodity over a young player. Lewis-Harris has shown promise in limited snaps throughout his career, but never has been able to earn consistent playing time enough to show he can be a positive contributor. It’s also worth noting that Lewis-Harris is not a vested veteran, so his salary is not guaranteed, unlike that of Brown who has more than four years of NFL experience and is locked into the full value of his deal with the Bengals at this point in the year.
Lewis-Harris, a fourth-year player from Tennessee-Chattanooga, played in seven of this season’s eight games while logging four tackles, one interception and two total passes defensed. He has played in 26 games in addition to three preseason games for Cincinnati since signing with the team in 2012.
He's been good when called upon in the past, including for 24 snaps in the Wild Card game against the Steelers, and the guy Willie Anderson recommended to Marvin Lewis four years ago has always fought hard to stay in Cincinnati, despite being overlooked in what’s always been a deep Bengals position group, even if it’s one that’s struggling in 2016.
But it was not enough to keep his job. He’ll now hit waivers and will be free for any other team to claim.