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Bengals waive WR James Wright; announce Eric Winston’s return

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The Bengals are keeping Eric Winston and parting ways with James Wright.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have made a pair of roster moves on Monday, one being expected and one coming as a big surprise.

The team announced that veteran tackle Eric Winston had been re-signed to a one-year deal, which was reported on Friday. The team also announced that wide receiver James Wright had been waived, a move no one saw coming.

Wright, a fourth-year NFL player out of LSU, was the team’s seventh-round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s since been a solid special teams player who also showed flashes of being a decent wide receiver. He played in 24 games in his three-year Bengals career, including two starts in 2016. He had 18 receptions for 197 yards during that time, as well as 16 total tackles on special teams.

However, recurrent knee injuries have kept Wright on the sideline far too often, including a lost 2015 season due to a PCL injury and microfracture surgery after it didn’t heal properly. He also missed three games last season due to knee injuries, though they weren’t serious and he played in the final three games of the year.

Still, it looks like Wright’s knees are banged up enough that the team doesn’t think he has much, if anything left to provide in Cincinnati. That’s about the only way to explain why the team would cut him in the offseason when he costs very little to keep and could have been one of the five or six best receivers on the roster.

As for Winston, a 12th-year NFL player, he originally joined the Bengals late in 2014 and has been on the roster for the last two full seasons. He has 128 career NFL starts (including postseason) and has played 34 Bengals games, with seven starts.

“Eric has played well for us and has been a great veteran for our team chemistry,” Lewis said. “We know he will give us another excellent contribution in 2017.”

The veteran lineman figures to make around the veteran minimum, which would pay him around $1 million, but would not necessarily guarantee him a roster spot when the final 53-man rosters are set.

Winston will now compete for the right tackle spot along with Jake Fisher, who may move to left tackle if the team doesn’t feel good about Cedric Ogbuehi starting there. Though, the expectation is for Ogbuehi to start at left tackle, Fisher at right and for Winston to serve as the primary backup for both tackle spots. He’ll likely still play a backup guard role, too.