If someone were to tell me Brandon Tate would be cut this week at some point earlier this summer, I would’ve completely expected Mario Alford to be the guy who replaced the veteran. The former seventh-round pick seemed like Cincinnati’s favorite to unseat the longtime return man, as he has off-the-charts speed and impressive agility. Unfortunately for Alford, things didn’t work out in his favor, and now, Alford has been given the Waived/Injured designation by the Bengals, removing him from the 90-man roster.
Alford entered the offseason with high expectations, but he struggled early on with drops. After he seemed to be picking things back up, the second-year wideout suffered what looked like a minor injury in the Bengals’ first preseason contest, but he hasn’t seen the field since. Alford’s injury was determined to be a sprained ankle and he was seen the next week in a walking boot. Considering Cincinnati needed to clear space on the roster, and Alford didn’t have a high chance of making the 53-man roster, giving him the waived-injured designation was the right move for the Bengals.
Alford’s chances were also hurt by the emergence of wide receiver/returner Alex Erickson, who now seems sure to make the roster due to Brandon Tate’s release this morning.
If Alford clears waivers, the Bengals can add him to their Injured Reserve list, as they did with wide receiver James Wright last season. That way, he’ll be on the 2017 roster to start off the offseason.
Though the wide receiver lit the world on fire in his final year at West Virginia (64 catches for 945 yards and 11 touchdowns), he was only active for one game in the Bengals’ 2015 season, catching one pass for 15 yards on a single target in Cincinnati’s 37-3 blowout of the Browns.
The injury designation is certainly a blow to a guy once believed to be a shoo-in as the next in line to be the Bengals’ return specialist, but it is far from a death sentence for the receiver’s career. Alford still has unteachable speed and agility, and he seemed to be improving before his unfortunate injury in Week 1 of the preseason. If Alford’s health checks out in the future, there’s a good shot he’ll stick around in Cincinnati.