As minicamp tryouts wrap up and training camp inch closer, the Bengals have made some roster moves to round out their 90-man roster. After drafting 11 players in April, the Bengals have signed another 14 undrafted free agents.
Finding free agents who can become solid contributors is an underrated part of building a franchise. The Bengals had six undrafted players on the 53-man roster at one point or another last season, including Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey and Ryan Hewitt.
Four of the six were linebackers, a position obliterated by injuries, which goes to show the kind of depth undrafted players can provide. So, it's no wonder the undrafted players attract a lot of attention; they can become key role players and even starters.
Bleacher Report sought out to grade each NFL teams’ UDFA signings. The Bengals, who have had a hard time finding love this offseason, were graded harshly. The unfairly was given a D, while B/R failed to realize some of the players who we think have the best shot at actually making noise this summer.
Names to watch: LB Junior Joseph, CB Trayvon Henderson
Don’t expect too much impact from the Cincinnati Bengals’ undrafted group. As for the two names that stand out, Junior Joseph could carve out a role in the linebacker corps. His film doesn’t produce a convincing argument to leave him on the field for the first three downs, but there’s potential as an early-down defender.
Joseph also flashed as a pocket-pusher with four sacks in his final season at UConn. He may hold a backup position at strong-side linebacker, but special teams will help him earn a roster spot.
Cornerback Trayvon Henderson started for three seasons at Hawaii, but the production was a bit scattered through his tenure.
An NFL safety must find a way to get takeaways, play closer to the box in run support or fill a hybrid role as a small linebacker. At 6’0”, 200 pounds, without consistent ball-tracking skills and being average against the run, Henderson doesn’t cleanly fit into any of the three categories.
The expectations for Junior Joseph seem far too high in this piece. The type of linebacker the author describes the Bengals as looking for in a UDFA, despite the tone, would suggest otherwise.
The Bengals already acquired an every-down linebacker this offseason in Preston Brown, so ideally, a UDFA linebacker would be a backup who could come in during specific situations. Joseph’s odds of making the roster aren’t too far out of reach, as he would start out by having to beat out fellow former UDFAs Brandon Bell and Hardy Nickerson Jr., who played in 2017 out of necessity rather than merit. He would also have to out perform Chris Worley, also a UDFA, but it’s not outside the realm of possibilities.
For whatever reason, the entire analysis was based off of the scouting reports of Joseph and Trayvon Henderson. There are plenty of other notable players who the Bengals picked up, like the aforementioned Worley who is a highly regarded defender coming from the Ohio State pipeline.
Quinton Flowers is another big name coming out of college because of both his background and his college resume. Flowers rushed for over 2,500 yards and nearly 30 touchdowns in his final two seasons as a quarterback. Now, the Bengals are interested in using him as a running back. And, he can contribute in a number of ways including on special teams and in trick plays, too. It’s also not out of the question for the team to use him as a receiver.
Ray Lawry is another name generating some buzz in Cincinnati. He was a workhorse for Old Dominion, starting for all four years (even as a true freshman), racking up 4,500 yards from scrimmage, and scoring a total of 45 touchdowns.
For some reason, B/R failed to take these guys into account. All in all, the Bengals did better than their grade would indicate. The analysis was incomplete and insufficient, so the “D” grade is inaccurate.
Don’t worry, Bengals fans, the team is not as bad as some make it out to be. It’s not perfect, but not worthy of a ‘D’.