Amidst all the turnover the Bengals dealt with this offseason, they added quite a bit of talent as well. From the interior of the offensive line and cornerback spots in free agency, to high-upside youth at linebacker and wide receiver, this roster doesn’t look a lot like it did back in January.
As Zac Taylor enters his first season as a head coach, with a brand new offensive and defensive coordinator, there is no precedent for how many players may be retained at a given position. Just the same, with mini-camp complete, here is my best crack at the Bengals 53 man-roster.
The Bengals will keep two or three quarterbacks. Obviously Dalton will make the cut, so that leaves the returning veteran Driskel and rookies Finley and Dolegala vying for the final position(s).
The Bengals traded up to the beginning of the fourth round to get Finely. Making this kind of bold move with plenty of talent available at quarterback and other positions of need indicates that the Bengals have taken a shine to young Finley. So even though he apparently did not impress during mini-camp, the team is unlikely to let him go.
UDFA Jake Dolegala however has a little buzz coming out of camp. If he gets a chance to impress during the preseason, the Bengals may be afraid to lose him in an attempt to assign him to the practice squad.
Cutting Driskel would be a surprise, but he did not look good when Dalton went down last year. At the end of the day, if Dalton goes down for any length of time, the season goes with him. The team would be better off going with a developmental player.
Running Backs (4)
Rodney Anderson (NFI)
Mixon, Bernard, and Williams are sure bets to make the final roster. Anderson would be as well if he was healthy, but it seems likely that the team will try to put him on the non-football injury list; essentially redshirting him for the season.
After the Bengals drafted both Williams and Anderson in the sixth round, some questioned whether Bernard would return for the upcoming season, but it’s a safe bet that he’ll be here until his contract expires.
The team is likely to keep at least four running backs, so if Anderson was sent to IR, that would open up an opportunity for another pair of rookies in Hall and Jordan Ellis. Hall gets the edge for his big play potential, but it could come down to who can find a role on special teams.
Wide Receivers (6)
Stanley Morgan Jr.
Lock in Green, Boyd, and Ross; that trio isn’t going anywhere. Erickson and Core are almost certain to return do to their contributions on special teams, along with Erickson’s contract. Many will groan at the thought of Core’s alleged value on special teams, but remember that special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is still around. He may wield as much control over the roster as he did in the past.
That makes five, which leaves one maybe two spots for returning fan favorites Josh Malone and Auden Tate as well as a streak of UDFAs. Of the group, Nebraska’s Morgan Jr. makes the cut with Damion Willis getting a practice squad invite.
Malone and Tate are let go and Bengals Twitter implodes.
Tight End (4)
Eifert is pretty much an asterisk here based on health concerns and the idea that he will essentially be a gloried receiver since Taylor apparently wants to run the ball. This means the Bengals will surely keep at least four tight ends. Eifert, Uzomah, and Sample are all shoe-ins, specifically Uzomah and Sample due to the former’s new contract and the latter’s draft status as the team’s second-round pick.
Jordan Franks and Cethan Carter could make the cut, but a healthy Schreck would be hard to send packing.
Offensive Line (9)
Even though the Bengals have a wide array of offensive guards, they apparently found this group lacking during minicamp since they recently signed Jerry. He and fellow newcomers Miller and Jordan are all very likely to make the team.
This leaves Boling, Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond, and Hopkins. Westerman’s first-team reps begat the Jerry signing which is not a good sign for his prospects of making the team. He will likely be gone (Bengals Twitter weeps once more) as will Redmond (Bengals Twitter rejoices for once).
Boling was rumored to be on the hot seat after Glenn moved from left tackle to left guard this spring. Any chance of Boling being a cap casualty went out the door with the announcement of Williams’ injury. Now Glenn will likely stay at tackle and the Bengals may need Boling’s versatility to provide depth at tackle as well. Hopkins also makes the cut based largely on his versatility. In addition to playing guard, he can back up Billy Price at center and fill in at tackle in a pinch.
Speaking of tackle, in addition to Glenn the Bengals will keep Hart (sorry), but unfortunately Williams will have to go on IR. Perkins could also make the cut as one of the few other players with the skill set to play tackle.
Defensive Line (9)
Dunlap, Atkins, Lawson, and Hubbard are all sure things. The signing of Wynn should provide them with an inside pass rusher who can play the edge on early downs, and it may make it hard for Willis to stick around. Fortunately for him, the Bengals will look to keep a number of pass rushing options.
Billings and Glasgow will both return on the inside next to Atkins. The final spot on the interior line will come down to Brown and Wren, but the rookie will probably win out.
The Bengals will hope to see a boost out of veterans Brown, Vigil, and Evans in the new defense. Evans will need to take a big step, but the Bengals didn’t bring in much competition for him. Jefferson will also be looking to step up. The former third-round pick is an incredible athlete who has a ton of potential. Hopefully the new staff can help him reach it.
The Bengals drafted Pratt and Davis. Pratt could be a serious contributor but is still unsigned for whatever reason and was injured during rookie camp. As for Davis, he has some limitations. He may have to go to the practice squad.
Watch out for versatile UDFA Sterling Sheffield, who may also play a role as a pass rusher and special teams player.
Former Ohio State Buckeye Chris Worley may also end up on the practice squad, but it will be the end of the road for Hardy Nickerson.
William Jackson III
There is a lot of talent at cornerback. Jackson, Dennard and Kirkpatrick will easily make the roster, after that it gets a bit dicey.
Veterans KeiVarae Russell and Tony McRae will have to go. Rookie Jordan Brown will show some flashes, but the team will hope to get him on the practice squad.
Williams and Bates are an excellent pair of safeties and Fejedelem has done a great job in his role as well as on special teams. They will need at least one more safety and it will come down to Wilson, Trayon Henderson, and Tyree Kinnel. At the end of the day it will come down to who can contribute the most on special teams. Kinnel could give him a run for his money, but Wilson ends up winning out.
With Simmons back coordinating the special teams and no serious competition brought in, the Bengals stick with their kicker Bullock, punter Huber, and long snapper Harris. No surprises here.