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Bengals 55-man roster prediction: Virtual OTAs edition

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84 players make up the Bengals’ roster as of right now. What will it look like after 29 get cut?

2020 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

We don’t even know when the 2020 NFL season will begin, much less what the Cincinnati Bengals final roster will look like. But that won’t stop us from trying four months in advance once again!

As a reminder, the brand new CBA will allow teams to carry two extra players on the active roster compared to previous years. 55 is the new magic number.

Our roster prediction this time last year had over a dozen blunders in it. To the folks who take these projections to heart...we love you, but please be kind. These players are getting to know each other over zoom right now, we only know what we know.

FYI: players are ordered by (number of seasons they will have accrued after 2020)

Editor’s note: technically teams will still have to cut down to 53 players. The additional two spots are for the temporary activation of practice squad players. This CBA is only two months old and the world is still upside down at the moment, cut us some slack.

Quarterbacks: 3

  • Ryan Finley (2)
  • Jake Dolegala (2)
  • Joe Burrow (R)

Even if a lowly fourth is signed at this position, he would be a practice squad candidate and nothing more. The team seems set on these three.

Running backs: 4

  • Giovani Bernard (8)
  • Joe Mixon (4)
  • Trayveon Williams (2)
  • Rodney Anderson (2)

The addition of Jacques Patrick is interesting, but his three-year deal has no guaranteed money attached to it and he can safely land on the practice squad if he can’t beat out last year’s rookies. Samaje Perine and Patrick represent Mixon insurance in the case that he doesn’t sign long-term deal by training camp.

Even if it takes all of August, or whenever the preseason ends this year, Mixon will likely be signed through the foreseeable future and the four listed above will make up the final foursome. The roles from last year won’t change, but who knows what they have planned for Anderson? It will be exciting to see him play again.

Wide receivers: 7

  • A.J. Green (10)
  • Tyler Boyd (5)
  • Mike Thomas (5)
  • John Ross III (4)
  • Auden Tate (3)
  • Stanley Morgan (2)
  • Tee Higgins (R)

The timeline for Green’s new deal is a bit sooner than Mixon’s, but it will be met by the front office. A Joe Burrow offense will use at least three receivers on the essentially every passing play, and the fourth and fifth guys will be crucial depth on game days. Seven seems like the number to start with considering the need and existing talent.

In three-receiver sets, a depth chart of Higgins and Tate as the Xs, Boyd and special teams aficionado Morgan as the slots, and Green and Ross as the flankers makes a lot of sense. Their options obviously extend beyond that as well.

The wildcard here is Alex Erickson, who might be ousted if two defensive backs essentially eliminate his value as a returner. Damion Willis or others like Trenton Irwin and college free agent Scotty Washington would be practice squad favorites, but maybe Willis can keep free agent signee Thomas from taking the seventh spot. Head coach Zac Taylor has a history with Thomas, as Taylor coached him for the Los Angeles Rams when he was the team’s assistant wide receivers coach in 2017.

Tight ends: 3

  • C.J. Uzomah (6)
  • Cethan Carter (4)
  • Drew Sample (2)

Why didn’t the Bengals draft a tight end? They only need three at most in planning for this offense. Welcome to the 20s. Mason Schreck will be given one final chance to push special teams ace Carter off the roster, but if he fails, he cannot go back on the practice squad.

Expect another like college free agent Mitchell Wilcox to be stashed there, though. They still have one more year of the Moritz Böhringer exception to take advantage of as well.

Offensive linemen: 9

  • Xavier Su’a-Filo (7)
  • Bobby Hart (6)
  • Trey Hopkins (5)
  • Alex Redmond (4)
  • Billy Price (3)
  • Michael Jordan (2)
  • Fred Johnson (2)
  • Jonah Williams (2)
  • Hakeem Adeniji (R)

No, Hart isn’t going anywhere, but he doesn’t seem to be the favorite at the right tackle spot. For how inattentive the Bengals treated the offensive line this offseason, they seem confident that Johnson can snag that job from him this summer. Their conviction towards newly-signed Su’a-Filo is apparent as well.

The guys who aren’t projected to start—Price, Redmond, Adeniji, and Hart—can all play different spots. They didn’t have to bring back Redmond but they did, so he’s got an backup spot penciled in for him. Price is still too expensive to cut and he’s their only reserve with experience at center.

Adeniji, like Jordan last year, maybe the wildcard to watch out for. Clay Cordasco and Josh Knipfel are the college free agents to remember here. Isaiah Prince is another practice squad hopeful.

Defensive linemen: 10

  • Geno Atkins (11)
  • Carlos Dunlap (11)
  • D.J. Reader (5)
  • Josh Tupou (4)
  • Carl Lawson (4)
  • Ryan Glasgow (4)
  • Sam Hubbard (3)
  • Andrew Brown (2)
  • Renell Wren (2)
  • Khalid Kareem (R)

The addition of Kareem gives them a true fourth edge defender, so Brown shouldn’t have to play out of position anymore. If he is active on game days, he’d make a quality reserve at both the 5-technique and 3-technique spots.

With that said, Brown seems like the biggest question mark to make it through final cuts. Glasgow may’ve felt pressure had they drafted an interior defender, but they did not. How much noise can college free agents Tyler Clark and Trey Dishon make this summer? What about edge/linebacker hybrid Kendall Futrell? At least one of them making the practice squad seems like a solid bet.

Linebackers: 6

  • Josh Bynes (10)
  • Jordan Evans (4)
  • Germaine Pratt (2)
  • Logan Wilson (R)
  • Akeem Davis-Gaither (R)
  • Markus Bailey (R)

If Bailey makes it through the offseason healthy, the plan is probably seeing who can beat out Evans for that final spot. Of course, they may just keep five and kick Evans to the curb anyways. The three draftees (meaning a healthy Bailey) and Pratt are essentially the lone locks here, as Bynes’ non-guaranteed contract doesn’t exactly protect him in case others just out play him. They’d like to keep his veteran presence, but surely not at the expense of cutting a potentially better player.

Candidates to beat out Evans, who played over 300 snaps on special teams last year, are recently claimed Austin Calitro and college free agent Marcel Spears Jr. Brady Sheldon’s still here too, so...there’s that.

Cornerbacks: 6

  • Trae Waynes (6)
  • William Jackson III (5)
  • Mackensie Alexander (5)
  • LeShaun Sims (5)
  • Greg Mabin (4)
  • Darius Phillips (3)

This is the position where things could get real dicey. The top four in Jackson, Waynes, Alexander and Phillips are safe, obviously, but how do they decide who rounds out the position? Sims looks like a Tony McRae replacement for special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, but neither him nor Mabin are locks by any means. Mabin at least has special teams experience as well and played more defense than Torry McTyer did last year.

Perhaps Tony Brown and McTyer claim the remaining spots. CFL stud Winston Rose and college free agent Isiah Swann? There’s just not a lot that separates anyone at the bottom of this group.

Safeties: 4

  • Shawn Williams (8)
  • Vonn Bell (5)
  • Brandon Wilson (4)
  • Jessie Bates III (3)

Once Bell was signed a week into free agency, the team displayed their contentment with this group. Williams spends one final year as a rotational piece in the back seven and as a leader in the locker room. The only safety they have rostered who’s not listed here is Trayvon Henderson. Unless he makes a monumental leap this summer, these four seem to be the four. Wilson’s value at kick returner is too great to disregard, and he’s a solid slot defender as well.

Special teams: 3

  • Clark Harris (12)
  • Kevin Huber (12)
  • Randy Bullock (9)

No competition for Bullock was added, but there are a handful of roster spots open so you never know.