While it was essentially a backup for a backup trade, it will still have a significant impact on how the final 53-man roster is constructed. With that in mind, here’s a look at the biggest winners and loser from the deal.
The Bengals made it a point to reshape their linebacker room this offseason. That included spending three picks on the position in the 2020 NFL Draft, including their final pick in Purdue’s Markus Bailey.
Three days after drafting Bailey, the Bengals claimed Austin Calitro off waivers from the Jaguars, a clear signal that Bailey’s spot on the 53-man roster was far from guaranteed.
The final linebacker spot may very well have come down to Bailey and Calitro, and my guess is the latter had a slight edge if so. While training camp was more limited this year, it appeared Calitro was higher on the pecking order, as he was even getting second-team reps at linebacker last week. Head coach Zac Taylor even singled out Calitro as someone making a positive impression on defense.
Now that Calitro is gone, Bailey’s chances of making the 53-man roster have significantly increased.
There was a scenario where the Bengals kept Calitro and Bailey, but that would have meant Jordan Evans didn’t make the final roster. Assuming Josh Bynes, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson are all near-locks for the Week 1 roster, there’s only 1-2 more linebacker spots up for grabs with Evans in real danger of being cut.
Now, Evans still could up being cut, but like Bailey, his chances of making the final roster got a big boost with Calitro exiting the competition. Evans has struggled to stand out in the Bengals defense through his first three seasons, but at age 25 and entering just his fourth season, there’s reason to believe Evans can still grow into a solid role player. His chances of doing so are better now that Calitro is gone.
Entering cutdown day, the Bengals didn’t really have an adequate backup behind the 6-3, 347-pound D.J. Reader, who is really a nose tackle that will eat up blockers in the middle of Cincinnati’s defense.
Yes, the team did sign Mike Daniels, but he’s more of a Geno Atkins backup. While the Bengals did pay top dollar to sign Reader, you still want to keep him effective for a full season, which is harder to do if he’s playing 60%+ of the snaps every game.
Now that the Bengals have a more adequate backup at nose tackle, it will prevent Reader from being forced to play more snaps while keeping him more fresh and effective over a 16-game season.
Saying all of this, Covington can play behind Atkins and even sneak in snaps at defensive end on run downs. But this move should still help keep Reader fresh.
As mentioned above, the Bengals needed another adequate nose tackle-ish backup behind D.J. Reader, which opened up a real chance for undrafted rookie Trey Dishon to sneak onto the final roster. The 6-2, 311-pound lineman was arguably the best UDFA Cincinnati landed this year after he had a solid career at Kansas State.
Our own Matt Minich actually had Dishon making the roster (as well as Calitro making it over Bailey), but the Covington acquisition likely killed any hope of that.
A lot of people called me out for having Trey Dishon on my 53-man roster prediction and having Calitro instead of Bailey - The Covington move rectifies both— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 4, 2020
Dishon still have a shot at the practice squad, but Covington will very likely prevent the rookie from making the initial 53-man roster.