The Cincinnati Bengals love keeping all of their draft picks as rookies.
However, Jordan Evans is facing a tough battle to crack the final roster at a deep and talented linebacker position. Will he earn that final backer spot on the 53-man roster, or will he become a rare Bengals draft pick to be waived as a rookie?
Weight: 233 pounds
According to Spotrac, Evans is signed to a four-year deal worth up to $2,556,506. He will make $504,126 in 2017 and have a dead cap hit of $156,506 if released.
Evans comes to Cincinnati as a sixth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former Sooner was a full-time starter for the last three seasons in college, though his career was highlighted by a senior season in which he recorded 98 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, eight pass deflections and one forced fumble in 13 games. He was regarded as one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft, something the Bengals needed to upgrade since Vontaze Burfict is the only consistent linebacker in that regard.
In fact, Pro Football Focus noted that he was consistently good in coverage last year, allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for just one touchdown and a 64.3 passer rating against him. The Bengals use their linebackers in zone defenses frequently, which appears to be an area in which Evans excelled as a Sooner.
Part of what drew the Bengals to Evans were his outstanding numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran an impressive 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had a 38.5-inch vertical jump.
Going into the draft, Pro Football Focus had Evans ranked 138th overall, while CBS Sports had him ranked 183rd before Cincinnati took him 193rd overall in Round 6. That suggested the Bengals got good value in Evans, though he’s still far from a lock to make the final roster.
While linebacker wasn’t viewed as a major need coming into this year’s draft, the Bengals were still smart to bolster their depth with Evans. In 2018, we could see Marquis Flowers, Vontaze Burfict and Kevin Minter all leave town as they hit free agency.
But first thing’s first: Evans has to make the final roster this year to assure he’s able to compete for a bigger role in 2018. He’ll challenge Flowers, P.J. Dawson and Bryson Albright for a roster spot this season, assuming Burfict, Minter, Nick Vigil, Vincent Rey and fourth-round hybrid backer/defensive end Carl Lawson have their spots locked in. That would leave one or two spots for Evans to make it onto the final roster.
There’s also been the emergence of undrafted free agent linebackers Hardy Nickerson and Brandon Bell, who’ve played well in training camp and the preseason thus far. All of this is why I believe the odds of Evans making the final roster isn’t much better than a toss-up, being that this position is just so deep and we haven’t seen enough of him in action. Hopefully that will change over the next three preseason games.
Odds: 60 percent