Coming into the offseason, Cody Core looked like someone who had his roster spot secured with the Cincinnati Bengals.
But that was before the Bengals spent two draft picks on receivers while also re-signing Brandon LaFell. Does this mean Core’s roster spot is in jeopardy, and where does the second year wide receiver stand on the current depth chart?
Weight: 210 pounds
Hometown: Auburn, AL
Experience: Second-year player
Draft Status: Round 6, 2016
Core is entering the second year of his four-year rookie contract. He’s set to be paid $571,983 in 2017. If Core is waived, the Bengals will have $95,949 in dead cap space, according to Spotrac.
Core, who was selected with the 199th-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, joined the Bengals after an intriguing career with the Ole Miss Rebels. He caught 78 passes for 1,202 yards and 10 scores in his final two collegiate seasons. In 2015, Core ranked fifth among SEC players and 33rd nationally with 17.4 yards per catch while finishing second on the team with 644 receiving yards.
The guy who finished ahead of him, while getting most of the attention at Ole Miss, was Laquon Treadwell, who was a first-round pick and viewed by some as the best receiver in last year’s draft. Interestingly, Core ended up being more productive as a rookie.
Throughout his four-year playing career at Ole Miss, Core played in 51 games, had 83 receptions for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 25.4 yards per game. He played a lot of special teams during his first two years in college as Treadwell's presence on the team limited Core’s touches on offense.
Additionally, Core was a converted defensive back who only began playing receiver full-time in 2014. He finished with 21 tackles in his college career, 16 of which came during his first two collegiate seasons.
That defensive background made it easy to project Core onto a coverage unit in the NFL, which is part of what he did with the Bengals on special teams in his rookie year. However, it was his receiving skills that earned him a big role on the offense as the season wore on.
After A.J. Green’s injury against the Bills in Week 11, Core earned a much bigger role in the offense. He finished with 17 catches for 200 yards, all of which came in the final five games of the season. That strong finish seemed to secure his roster spot for 2017. But, that changed when the NFL draft rolled around.
The Bengals drafted Washington receiver John Ross with the ninth overall pick of this year’s draft and also spent a fourth-round pick on Tennessee receiver Josh Malone, who’s been shining in offseason workouts.
This came after the Bengals extended LaFell’s contract for two more years in free agency, making this a very crowded group heading into training camp. As it stands, Ross, Malone, LaFell, Green and Tyler Boyd are essentially locked into their roster spots.
That means Core will battle star return man Alex Erickson for that sixth receiver spot if that’s how many receivers Cincinnati keeps. However, the Bengals have indicated they want to keep seven receivers. If that’s the case, Core has a high chance of making the final roster.
Additionally, Core has been praised as one of the most improved players this offseason and has worked hard to improve his game.
“You can tell he’s put in a lot of work,” Andy Dalton told Bengals.com. “He looks really good.”
“I like Cody Core. He competes every day,” cornerback Adam Jones said. “He’s a good kid. I love guys that can compete, that live to go out and have fun. He can run and he’s going to do all the work going in there blocking. He’s a competing player. Cody has a chance to be something special.”
However, injuries will inevitably pop up at other positions, which could force the Bengals to keep extra players at a different position, which leads to just six receivers making the 53-man roster. If that happens, Core doesn’t have a great chance of beating out Erickson for that final spot. But, as of this moment, it sounds like Core is going to make it very hard for the Bengals to cut him.
Unfortunately, he went down with a lower leg injury in one of the final minicamp practices. But, he is expected to be ready for training camp. Even if he’s ready for camp, it was an unfortunate development as he was having such a great offseason and needs all the work he can get to compete for a roster spot this year.
I still expect the Bengals to do everything possible to keep Core and find a role for him in this offense.
Roster Odds: 60 percent.