The Bengals will be closing out their 2018 season on Sunday and Pittsburgh. For the fans, it will be the end to yet another frustrating season, but our frustration doesn’t equate to that of the players. For most of them, beyond this game is a period of unknown. The offseason is an unpredictable time when their entire livelihood is up in the air. All that they can hope for is their resume being strong enough to get another opportunity with their current team, or someplace else.
For several players on Cincinnati’s roster, it will be the last time they wear a Bengals uniform period. Here is a list of some of those players who could be playing their last game for the Bengals on Sunday. We did not include players who are currently on injured reserve.
Vincent Rey, linebacker
Rey probably has the best story of any Bengals player. He went from being undrafted out of Duke’s football program (before they were decent) to playing for the Bengals for nine seasons. He has been a very valuable veteran on this team for a long time, and he was one of the best linebackers this team has had in recent history.
The issue arises with Rey’s contract expiring, and the fact that he will be 32 by the time next season starts. He often times provided a spark off the bench, but time has all but caught up to him and his athleticism. He’s played just 169 defensive snaps this season, and Sunday is likely the last time we will see Rey in stripes. He deserves every fans’ respect for the career he carved out.
C.J. Uzomah, tight end
Out of all the people on this list it feels like Uzomah has the best chance of returning. He was the only tight end out of Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft to avoid getting put on injured reserve. He has had some nice moments, and the talent is there. It can get weird once the offseason hits and a team has three guys at one position hitting free agency. Unfortunately, it is a business, and it only takes one team to swoop in and snatch him up. Hopefully Cincinnati is able to keep him around though.
Cedric Ogbuehi, offensive tackle
I almost didn’t include Ogbuehi, who isn’t even guaranteed to be active on Sunday. It is obvious he will have to try and shed the bust label somewhere else in the NFL as the Bengals will have little to no interest in having him return. The team thinks so lowly of him that when Jake Fisher got injured they signed Andre Smith off the street and have had him active over Ogbuehi.
Ogbuehi was a first round pick in the 2015 draft, and really was brightest example of why that draft class was just down right awful for this team. It is even more frustrating that the Bengals were content to let him try and fill Andrew Whitworth’s shoes after the 2016 season.
Michael Johnson, defensive end
Another great veteran may be ending his time in Cincinnati. Johnson could be back, but it would be on an extremely friendly team deal, and he wouldn’t have too much of a guarantee of even making the roster with the Bengals prioritizing defensive end in recent drafts. They have already been rotating in Sam Hubbard and Jordan Willis pretty heavily to ed the season, and Carl Lawson will be back in the mix this offseason.
Johnson has left Cincinnati before. He played the 2014 season in Tampa Bay after being offered a massive free agent deal. He has nine years with the Bengals though where he totaled 41 sacks. He turned out to be quite the steal in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, but unless he is okay with fighting for his spot on the team, he may feel better about retiring or moving on to somewhere else. Either way, he has been a great leader on and off the field for this team and will be missed in most respects.
Bobby Hart, offensive tackle
If Hart starts on Sunday against the Steelers he will have started all 16 games at right tackle for the Bengals. How he managed to do that is anyone’s guess. He has played fairly poorly all season, and has sprinkled a good play on top of a sundae of bad ones.
Hart came over early in the offseason after being let go by the Giants, and no one really thought too much of it. Most fans and media thought he was nothing more than a low-risk signing who could compete for a spot on the roster. He quickly became the starting right tackle, and fortunately for him, the coaches never really tried to replace him. Although the options to do so were pretty thin especially after Fisher was injured.
The Bengals have to realize that they need to bring in more competition at the tackle position this offseason, and if they do that Hart’s spot on the team could be in question. He could make it to training camp and preseason, but you may see him for the last time in a Bengals uniform during the regular season on Sunday.
Darqueze Dennard, cornerback
Dennard has really done everything to deserve his spot on this roster. He has been a valuable slot cornerback in a league where that spot is very important. However, with Dre Kirkpatrick on the books for a few more years and William Jackson up for a second contract around that time, the Bengals may talk themselves out of offering Dennard a deal that would match his value on the open market.
Make no mistake, the Bengals have plenty of cap space to fit a modest multi-year deal for Dennard, but if he decides to bet on himself and take a bigger deal from somewhere else, we have the excuses queued up.
Vontaze Burfict, linebacker
It is pretty doubtful that Burfict will actually suit up on Sunday after suffering his second concussion in a month on Sunday against the Browns. Then again, it could be doubtful that Burfict ever plays in the NFL again at this point after suffering his seventh official concussion of his career.
Burfict came to the team in 2012 as an undrafted free agent, and he quickly made a name for himself for his play and ability to toe the line in every way imaginable. His style of play and energy quickly made him one of the emotional leaders for a defense that desperately needed it, but also put a target on his back for 31 other teams and their fanbases.
2018 hasn’t been a great year for him as he was suspended the first four games for PEDs and then he ended up with a hip injury as well as his multiple concussions. He just hasn’t looked like himself all season long, and the Bengals could decide to move on with his health going forward being a huge question mark.
Love him or hate him, he had one of the biggest impacts on this team of any player during his time with the team.