If you’re wondering if Brandon Thompson is still on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster, you might not be alone. The former third-round pick from the 2012 Draft signed a one-year deal to stay in Cincinnati in 2016, but after spending the entire season on the Reserve/PUP list, his contract rolled over and he’ll get a chance to make the team again this summer. But how good are his chances after spending more than a year recovering from an ACL tear suffered in the final regular season game of the 2015 NFL season? Let’s take a look at Thompson’s career in Cincinnati and what he needs to prove this summer.
Weight: 310 pounds
Position: Defensive tackle
Experience: Sixth-year player
Thompson signed a one-year, $840,000 contract with the Bengals last year, but after being injured for the entire season, the contract is now valid once again for 2017. He is set to make a base salary of $775,000 and a roster bonus of $30,000, while carrying a cap hit of $805,000. If he’s released though, Cincinnati wouldn’t incur in any dead money, according to Spotrac.
The former Tiger was selected by the Bengals in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft as part of their plan, alongside with Devon Still, to eventually replace veteran defensive tackles Domata Peko and Pat Sims.
After not playing much as a rookie, the departure of Sims and an injury to Geno Atkins in the middle of the 2013 season opened up a starting job for him and he fared moderately well. He was never going to be as disruptive as Atkins rushing the passer - three sacks in 53 career games - but had a very good first step, which made fans wonder if he could become a key player for this defense. His strong play against the run did show his value on the stat sheet.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, in games when he wasn't on the field in 2013, the Bengals allowed 4.6 yards per rush. In games that season when Thompson was on the field, the Bengals allowed just 3.1 yards per carry.
Injuries in 2014 and the return of Sims in 2015 didn’t help him at all, and a torn ACL at the end of that season meant he couldn’t take advantage of Andrew Billings redshirting his rookie year.
Still he’s only 27 and knows the system, something the Bengals value a lot. Also of note is the Bengals stuck with him for all of 2016, re-signing him during the offseason despite knowing he was likely to never see the field during the season. It was a nice move by the team as his market was essentially dead as a free agent in 2016 who just suffered an ACL tear.
Despite many of the guys he’s going to compete with for a job being young and inexperienced at the big league level, Thompson will have a tough time latching onto a roster spot in 2017.
Not only do the Bengals have Billings and Marcus Hardison finally healthy, but also added Ryan Glasgow in the fourth round of the last draft and DeShawn Williams is probably the best of them all at the three-technique role. Veteran Wallace Gilberry also figures to get some snaps inside and so does rookie defensive end Jordan Willis. Sims is probably a lock as an insurance plan if Billings isn’t 100 percent ready to go for the start of the season, and practice squad standout David Dean, showed last summer he could make a run at the job. 350-pound undrafted rookie Josh Tupou could be a dark horse in the competition as well.
We can’t forget he’s off an ACL injury, devastating for anyone and more so for a 320 pounder who relied on his quick feet to make plays. Cutting him wouldn’t cost the team a dime either, and as the Bengals carefully manage not to incur much dead money, it’s safe to say that will be an important factor.
Thompson knows the Bengals’ system and neither Billings nor Hardison are safe to be back at full steam this season; although that also applies to Thompson, too. The team certainly values his experience, but that might not be enough in a year with 11 draft picks fighting for a roster spot.
Roster odds: 15 percent