Cracking the 53-man roster as a wide receiver was an unenviable task in 2016, and it only got more difficult this year for pass catches on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster.
That’s what Alonzo Russell is looking to do in 2017. Where does he currently stand in the Bengals’ crowded receiver group, and what are his chances of making the final roster?
Weight: 206 pounds
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Experience: First-year player
According to Spotrac, Russell is signed to a two-year, $1,020,000 contract. In 2017, Russell will earn a base salary of $465,000. If he makes the final roster, Russell will be an exclusive rights free agent in the 2019 offseason.
An impact player every year of college, Russell Russell caught 56 passes for 960 yards and five scores in his redshirt freshman in 2012. He followed that up by catching 59 passes for 728 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2013.
In the 2014 season, Russell had 51 grabs for 770 yards and eight scores and he finished off his college career with 36 catches for 618 yards and five scores in 2015. The decline in production was concerning, but he's a good receiver who received a draftable grade by some experts.
Even so, Russell went undrafted and opted to stay in Ohio after his college career at Toledo by signing with the Bengals. He showed some flashes early in OTAs, but unfortunately, an injury leading to a 'minor procedure' kept him out for rookie minicamp.
That helped keep him behind guys like Alex Erickson and Jake Kumerow during training camp and the preseason. Erickson went on to earn a spot on the final roster, while Kumerow joined Russell as practice squad signees following final roster cuts. Russell remained on the practice squad, gaining experience in the Bengals’ system all season and he now returns for his second year in the NFL looking to make a bigger impact.
Thanks to the additions of first-round receiver John Ross and fourth-rounder Josh Malone, Russell is battling the likes of Erickson, Kumerow and 2016 sixth-rounder Cody Core for one of the final receiver spots at a loaded position.
Russell is going to have a serious challenge just to get practice reps and show what he’s capable of in order to warrant a roster spot ahead of the aforementioned guys.
Unless someone gets injured, Russell has almost no shot of making the 53-man roster, but he has a good chance of making the practice squad again as long as he does well in training camp and the preseason.
Odds: 5 percent.