Running back Tra Carson was promoted to the Cincinnati Bengals’ active roster for the final game of the 2016 season after spending the entire year on the team’s practice squad. Unfortunately, his chances of securing a spot on the roster in Cincinnati are even slimmer now than they were last year. The Bengals added talented running back Joe Mixon in the draft, still believe in Jeremy Hill and if the team couldn’t find playing time for Rex Burkhead, it’ll be far harder for Carson to see the field.
Where does he fit in with this year’s running backs and what’s in store for the rest of his year?
Weight: 231 pounds
Position: Running back
School: Texas A&M
Experience: Second-year player
The Texarkana, Texas native is under contract with the Bengals through 2018, but none of his salary is guaranteed, meaning Cincinnati can cut him at any point without incurring in any dead money. If he makes the roster in 2017, Carson will make up $465,000, the same as his cap hit, per Spotrac.
After playing at the University of Oregon for one year, Carson transferred to Texas A&M, where he was teammates with current Bengals left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi for two seasons. Most of his production came in his senior campaign, in which he rushed for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns at a 4.8 clip, helped by Ogbuehi.
Carson signed as undrafted free agent with the Bengals and beat fellow running back Bronson Hill for a spot on the practice squad with his performance in the 2016 preseason. Even with Cedric Peerman going on Injured Reserve to start the season, Cincinnati eliminated the fourth running back spot, using it to roster players at other positions.
Carson was promoted for the last game of the season, with Hill questionable to play. He was active but didn’t record a single snap, as now-Patriots running back Rex Burkhead torching the Ravens for 119 yards and two scores. Peerman also played in the game, though he had just six carries.
Burkhead is gone, but Mixon has been added and he looks like he could be the real deal. Hill is still the starter, even if his play the last two years shouldn’t grant it, and Giovani Bernard is on the mend. Peerman is not a lock to make the roster, though he has more value than Carson to the coaching staff because of his leadership on special teams. Carson will need to show a lot in training camp and the preseason to have any chance of making the roster.
Not only is the running back unit loaded with the above-mentioned guys, there’s also undrafted free agents, including Stanley "Boom" Williams. The Bengals have so much young talent and the competition to make the roster will be intense this summer.
Carson didn’t show much last summer and faces an even tougher battle to make the roster in 2017. His experience in the system after an entire year on the practice squad might be his best chance to repeat this season and beat out younger guys for that job.
An injury could open up a spot in the unit, but as the team showed when they claimed quarterback Jeff Driskel and cornerback KeiVarae Russell off waivers, the Bengals are not afraid to look outside if talent is available. That means Carson wouldn’t necessarily be the next man up if any of the main guys go down.
Roster odds: 2%