The Cincinnati Bengals have the bittersweet duty of making some tough decisions this offseason. While the team will be keeping a number of its core veterans, many other roster spots are open for talented youngsters to grab. Unfortunately, what comes with these decisions is the release of good players who other teams will eagerly scoop up.
Wide receiver is one of the most crowded positions on the team’s roster as the club heads into training camp. The Bengals have a future Hall of Fame player in A.J. Green coming back from a late-season hamstring injury, along with Tyler Boyd in the slot and the return of Brandon LaFell after a nice career renaissance in 2016.
However, the needed additions of John Ross and Josh Malone in the draft have the group packed even further. While this may be one of the most talented receiver groups Cincinnati has had in quite some time, a couple of tough decisions are on the horizon.
Most get the feeling that the Bengals will attempt to keep seven wide receivers when the season starts, which would be the first time they have done so since 2013. ut other positions are also jammed. Along with receiver, defensive tackle and cornerback have major talent in their respective positions as well.
Roster locks: A.J. Green, John Ross, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd
Grinding for the last few spots: Josh Malone, Cody Core, Alex Erickson Jake Kumerow
Practice squad or sneaking on to the final roster?: Alonzo Russell, Chris Brown, Karel Hamilton, Monty Madaris
Early Prediction: As difficult and unlikely as it may seem, the team will likely keep seven wideouts this year. Erickson will likely be the last one they keep after he led the NFL in kickoff return yards and AFC in average yards per kickoff return. Had Malone not been selected in the fourth round this year, we might be more seriously talking about the team keeping their usual six at the position.
Kumerow is a guy who has wowed everyone in training camp practices since his arrival in 2015, but he hasn’t translated the same production in those important preseason games. An injury last season contributed to his lack of preseason success, which was unfortunate as it may have been his best chance to make the roster. Marvin Lewis has publicly stated the route for fringe roster guys to make the team is with big performances in preseason games—not in practices.
There have been a few recent examples of underdog receivers making the Bengals’ final roster because of massive preseason performances. Guys like Quan Cosby, Dane Sanzenbacher and Erickson all fall into that category, so perhaps Kumerow or a guy like Russell can intrigue the coaches enough to push either Core or Erickson off of this year’s roster.
Because of height/weight/speed/upside combinations, Kumerow might once again see an opportunity to land on the final roster squeak past him, as the team likely shows favoritism to guys like Malone and Core.
For now, it looks like Green, LaFell, Boyd, Ross, Core, Malone and Erickson are the seven receivers the Bengals will keep on the 53-man roster.