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Bengals Roster Cuts: P.J. Dawson clears waivers, becomes free agent

It looks like P.J. Dawson will be back with the Bengals if he wants to be.

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker P.J. Dawson has cleared waivers and is expected to join the Bengals’ practice squad, which has a place open for him.

After the second-year linebacker was shockingly waived on Sunday, the was a lot of uncertainty as to whether Dawson would clear waivers and allow the Bengals to sign him to their practice squad. The team even left his locker intact and nameplate in place on Monday, as if they were expecting Dawson to be back.

Bengals radio announcer Dave Lapham told ESPN 1530 on Monday why the team was so quick to waive the talented backer just one year after drafting him in the third round.

"You have to be a pro in every sense of the word, and he was not a pro in terms of preparation,” Lapham said. “Continually late for meetings, it became a chronic thing. Too many times he didn't show up on time."

Lapham added that while Dawson may join the Bengals’ practice squad, he also could look to go elsewhere to sign with a practice squad.

“We were going to add another player some way or another,” Marvin Lewis said regarding waiving P.J. Dawson. “He just unfortunately ended up being the player we were willing to part with.”

The 99th-overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Bengals took Dawson after a standout career at TCU. Going into the draft, few saw Dawson being on the board late in Round 3 as the All-American was projected to be drafted in Round 2.

Dawson was rated as the top 4-3 linebacker prospect by some, and most expected he'd be off the board well before the second day of the draft was ending. He was a force at TCU in 2014, leading the team with 136 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and four interceptions on his way to being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Pro Football Focus went as far as to call Dawson one of the biggest steals in the draft, and that led many in Bengaldom to think he'd contribute significantly as a rookie.

Those expectations only grew with a good showing in training camp and the preseason, not to mention the Bengals expressing their belief that Dawson was bound for greatness.

But the Bengals were fine at all three linebacker spots with Rey Maualuga playing at a high level, while Vinny Rey, A.J. Hawk and Emmanuel Lamur occupied the remaining snaps before Vontaze Burfict returned from PUP in Week 8. Dawson would only be active in 11 games as a rookie while getting most of his playing time on special teams. He finished the season with just 12 tackles.

Many thought Dawson would take on a significant role in 2016 with Hawk and Lamur gone while Burfict served a three-game suspension. That's why it came as a big surprise when the Bengals waived Dawson one day after announcing the 53-man roster. He was cut in favor of guys like Marquis Flowers and Trevor Roach at linebacker, while the team also added Chykie Brown, Jeff Driskel and Trey Hopkins to the roster on Sunday.

While those guys may contribute this year, none of them possess the kind of upside Dawson was thought to have. It seems Dawson’s work ethic and attitude had the coaching staff fed up with him, and realizing some pre-draft warnings were true, enough so that they waived him in hopes it being a wake-up call for his career.

The Bengals have not yet announced whether Dawson is being signed to the practice squad.