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3 players the Bengals released who went on to have success elsewhere

Hindsight is 50-50.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp is coming up, which means cuts are looming.

The Bengals will have some tough choices to make when they trim the roster from 90 players down to 53. Whether a player has become a financial burden or is simply not cutting the mustard, the front office will have to decide who they can or cannot continue without.

Fortunately, at least in the Marvin Lewis era, most of the cuts have turned out to benefit the Bengals. Players cut were either in the twilights of their careers or future journeymen who never really had a chance in the NFL. There have been a few players, however, that the Bengals perhaps wish they had thought twice before letting go.

Nick Harris

The former California Golden Bear had as successful a college career as a punter can have. As such, he was drafted by the Broncos in 2001, but was waived before the season started. He was then signed by the Bengals and became their everyday punter for two full seasons. During his first two seasons with the Bengals, he averaged 40.1 yards per punt each year.

Harris is the lone player on this list that was released mid-season. Five games into his third season with the Bengals in 2003, he was released after only averaging 38.7 yards per punt. His inability to flip the field (his net average was only 30.0 yards) landed him on the open market, where he immediately found a home with the Detroit Lions, filling in for the injured John Jett.

Harris turned his career around in Detroit, where he stuck around until 2010 averaged 43.2 yards per punt. He joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 and then re-joined the Lions for a second stint, where he would end his career after the 2012 season.

While Harris was no Pro Bowler, he was most certainly better as a Lion and a Jaguar than he ever was as a Bengal. The Bengals replaced him with Kyle Richardson for the remainder of the 2003 season. Richardson was nothing more than a placeholder, as the Bengals signed Kyle Larson in 2004.

Larson was an acceptable punter, but left enough to be desired that the Bengals would go on to waive him and draft Kevin Huber in 2009. Huber is currently under contract until 2021, so the Bengals are quite happy with him. But by the time they settled on their third punter since 2003, Harris was already enjoying his sixth season of employment with the Lions.

As a side note, the Bengals released kicker Neil Rackers the same year. Rackers was a Pro Bowler in 2005, as well as being named a First-team All-Pro with the Arizona Cardinals. But since his replacement in Cincinnati was Shayne Graham, the Bengals did not miss Rackers at all.

James Develin

James Develin’s path to the NFL was unorthodox, but one Pro Bowl appearance and two Super Bowl rings later, he would probably say it worked out alright in the end.

Develin played on the defensive line for Brown University for four years before joining the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (yes, you read that correctly) of the AFL. He only played one game before then joining the UFL’s Florida Tuskers, where he switched positions. The Bengals signed him to their practice squad in November 2010 as a fullback.

He spent the rest of 2010 and all of 2011 on the Bengals’ practice squad. The Bengals finally released him on August 31, 2012 when they trimmed the roster down to 53 men.

The New England Patriots signed him to their practice squad two days later, and he made his way to the active roster. By 2014, he was the starting fullback for the Patriots.

Develin has had great success with the Patriots, winning two Super Bowls while also representing the Patriots in the Pro Bowl in 2017. His success is well deserved, and Develin was ranked the second-best fullback in the NFL in 2017 by Pro Football Focus.

Leave it to the Patriots to find a guy like that and turn him into a star—or at least, as much of a star as a fullback can be.

James Harrison

Who knew that when the Bengals released a 35-year-old linebacker that he would go on to have a career resurgence?

While Harrison will always be known as a Steeler, he did come over and rub elbows with the division rivals in 2013. The Akron native only recorded 16 tackles and two sacks in 10 starts as a Bengal, so they released him due to his underwhelming performance the following March. He retired in September, only to rejoin the Pittsburgh Steelers two-and-a-half weeks later.

While he never had the same production as his first stint with the Steelers, he was still better than he was as a Bengal. Over the next three years, he only started 11 games but recorded 95 tackles and 15.5 sacks.

At the age of 35, the Bengals were never going to have the All-Pro Harrison from earlier in his career. However, they probably thought they could have gotten more out of him than they did.

After his release, he went on to play five games against the Bengals, in which he recorded 12 total tackles and one pass defended.