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Bengals given roster exemption for Vontaze Burfict

Who will the Bengals move to make room for Vontaze Burfict’s return?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals just got a major upgrade to their defense. It came in Vontaze Burfict returning from his three-game suspension on Monday, the team announced.

The Bengals also announced that they were given a three-day exemption for Burfict’s roster spot, so they don’t have to make room for him until Thursday at 4 p.m. EST. So before Sunday’s Week 4 matchup with the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati has to find a way to free up a roster spot for Burfict to join the 53-man roster.

That could mean someone gets waived, but it could also happen via a player being traded or placed on injured reserve. As of now, the only player dealing with a major injury is Trey Hopkins, who suffered a knee injury in Week 1. He hasn’t been placed on IR yet, but he hasn’t practiced either since Week 1, so it’s possible he still ends up on IR.

If the Bengals opt to waive a player, the most obvious candidate is Hardy Nickerson. The undrafted free agent linebacker made the final roster largely because of Burfict’s suspension. He would probably clear waivers and make it to the Bengals’ practice squad.

The same cannot be said for Jordan Evans, who had a great showing in the preseason and even got 12 defensive snaps in Week 1. He is also a sixth-round draft pick from this year’s NFL Draft, so it’s hard to see him clearing waivers.

The Bengals may also opt to waive a player at another position, such as h-back Cethan Carter, center Russell Bodine, cornerback KeiVarae Russell or safety Derron Smith. Those seem to be the guys closest to the roster bubble right now.

Maybe the Bengals can work a trade, though it’s hard to say who they’d move. Perhaps it would be one of the seven wide receivers or six cornerbacks (like Adam Jones).

How do you think the Bengals should free up a roster spot?