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Bengals 2017 roster: Practice squad speaks volumes about talent and good fortune

The Bengals let some talented players hit the waiver wire on Saturday, but re-claimed many of the coveted ones on Sunday on their practice squad.

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Every Labor Day weekend, those of us outside of the walls of Paul Brown Stadium begin to worry about some of the talented players the Cincinnati Bengals don’t add to their 53-man roster. And, every year it seems, the team surprises us with who they are able to keep via the practice squad.

This Sunday was no exception, as the Bengals kept two of their three draft picks from 2017 they cut loose earlier in the weekend, as well as some promising undrafted players and a veteran who has hovered around the team’s roster since 2015 in DeShawn Williams. In case you missed the practice squad announcement, here is the list of players the team has currently retained:

  • LB Brandon Bell (rookie, Penn State)
  • K Jake Elliott (rookie, Memphis)
  • OT Kent Perkins (rookie, Texas)
  • DT Josh Tupou (rookie, Colorado)
  • WR Kermit Whitfield (rookie, Florida State)
  • DT DeShawn Williams (second-year player, Clemson)
  • HB Jarveon Williams (rookie, Texas-San Antonio)
  • S Brandon Wilson (rookie, Houston)

There’s also an unconfirmed report that rookie cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who spent the summer with the Arizona Cardinals after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin, is signing to the Bengals’ practice squad.

If you’ve paid attention to the Bengals’ preseason, Bell, Tupou, Whitfield and Jarveon Williams all had their moments of quality play this summer. Perkins is a project guy they like, while Shelton was recently added after a solid career with the Badgers. Some of the newer and/or somewhat unfamiliar names have a good amount of talent.

Even though we can be critical of the team and their release of three of their 11 picks this year, they were able to retain two of the more important ones at minimal cost. Wilson and Elliott are guys who, if things fall a certain way, might find themselves on the active roster at some point in 2017.

Randy Bullock is the team’s current kicker and while he had a borderline amazing preseason with the Bengals, there are lingering questions on his ability to nail crunch-time kicks. With Elliott retained, the Bengals have a contingency plan in place if Bullock ends up struggling in the 2017 regular season.

As for Wilson, perhaps the Bengals attempted to rush him back a little soon off of the NFI list to see what they had in him in the wake of Cedric Peerman’s recent trip to IR to see what they had in him before the season started, but we’re just speculating. Either way, the Bengals now have the opportunity to let him sit and potentially join the roster as a swing guy should injuries hit.

Williams is a guy the Bengals have liked since he landed with them and, depending on one’s opinion, he could have been the most unlikely player to remain with the team in this capacity. Like Elliott and Wilson, he’s probably one of the first names the team will call on to the active roster, should issues arise.

So, is this a product of the Bengals quietly being a savvy team, being lucky that some of these quality players are being overlooked, or simple fans over-valuing these youngsters? It’s probably a combination all three.

While fans and draftniks have their opinions on players, we have to remember that NFL teams are both fickle and stubborn beasts. While overall ability still reigns supreme, potential scheme fit, versatility and gravitation to the coaching staff are all factors weighed when keeping players—both on the active roster and on the practice squad. So, it’s possible other teams simply didn’t value these players as highly as the Bengals did, or they had their own favorites who were kept in lieu of guys the Bengals have waiting in the wings.

Regardless, this looks to be a pretty solid practice squad roster for Cincinnati. If the Bengals have roster issues in 2017, be prepared to see some of these guys called upon as a remedy.