The Cincinnati Bengals have waived linebacker Hardy Nickerson.
This was a move in the making since Monday when Vontaze Burfict returned from his three-game suspension. Cincinnati was given a three-day window to free up a roster spot before Burfict officially counted against the 53-man roster, with the deadline being Thursday at 4 p.m. EST.
The logical move was waiving a linebacker, and the most obvious candidate was Nickerson. The undrafted free agent out of Illinois had a good showing in training camp and the preseason, but he made the initial 53-man roster largely because of Burfict’s three-game suspension.
However, the decision became muddier with news that linebacker Jordan Evans is dealing with a hamstring injury. He missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, making him unlikely for Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns. Not having Evans and Nickerson would have been a major blow to the Bengals’ depth, as well as special teams, where both players already have prominent roles.
Despite this, the Bengals opted to waive Nickerson, who they’ll almost certainly look to sign to the practice squad. In the meantime, look for Vincent Rey to take on a big role with all of the special teams units this week. Rey is used to this role, but he hasn’t been there as much this season while starting at weakside linebacker.
Now that Burfict is back, Rey can go back to being more of rotational linebacker who spends more time on special teams. I’d still expect him to get 15-plus defensive snaps against the Cleveland Browns this week. Coming off a three-game absence, Burfict probably isn’t read to get 100 percent of the defensive snaps.