The Cincinnati Bengals have finalized their initial 53-man roster.
It’s always a challenging ordeal to get to this point, especially in a year where the coronavirus has greatly affected football, like canceling the entire preseason. That made it more challenging for teams like the Bengals to get down to 53 men, and there were plenty of intriguing decisions to say the least.
Obviously the ones hurt the most are the players who actually got cut. But in this piece, we’re taking a look at the biggest winners and losers on the Bengals’ roster due to how the 53-man roster was constructed.
The Bengals made a surprising decision to only keep two quarterbacks, of which have a combined one season of NFL experience, which is from second-year man Ryan Finley. While Finley had a good training camp by all accounts, he did so last year before going on to struggle mightily in the limited starting experience he got.
That’s why it would have made sense for the Bengals to keep another quarterback in the event Joe Burrow gets injured and Finley continues to cripple the offense. But the Bengals feel confident enough in Finley to not keep another signal-caller to challenge him for the backup spot.
The Bengals decided to only keep C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample and Cethan Carter at tight end for this season after waiving Mason Schreck, Mitchell Wilcox and Jordan Franks. Both Schreck and Franks have spent time on the 53-man roster and were in contention for spots again this year. Because both were cut, Carter has a much clearer path to playing time, both on offense and special teams.
And if Drew Sample doesn’t step up in Year 2, Carter could wind up being the No. 2 tight end while also playing h-back.
Veteran back Samaje Perine got some tough competition for the final running back roster spot from Jacques Patrick, who had a good showing in camp and was firmly in the mix for this spot. However, the Bengals opted for the familiarity they have with Perine, who appeared in seven games last season (1 was with the Dolphins).
There was also a chance the Bengals would keep just three backs and try to get Perine onto the practice squad since the new rules allow for guys with as much experience as him to still make it.
But for now, Perine has made the Week 1 roster and will compete with Trayveon Williams for the third-string role behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. And if the 28-year old Bernard continues to regress, Perine may challenge for the No. 2 spot behind Mixon as the season progresses.
LeShaun Sims and Tony Brown
Arguably the best battle on the roster was for the final cornerback spots. While LeShaun Sims and Tony Brown had good camps, Torry McTyer and Winston Rose made strong impressions and could have easily made the Week 1 roster.
However, the Bengals opted to keep just six cornerbacks, the final ones being Brown and Sims, while McTyer and Rose were both waived. In addition, Trae Waynes is expected to go on injured reserve next week (he made the initial 53-man roster so the Bengals can IR him next week and still have the IR-return designation option open). So one or both of Sims/Brown could end up seeing significant snaps early and often this season.
Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither
The Bengals figure to role with Josh Bynes and Germaine Pratt as the top linebackers in what’s primarily a nickel defense. The next man up was up for grabs heading into cutdown day with veteran Jordan Evans likely to get that job if he made the roster.
Had Evans been cut, rookies Akeem Davis-Gaither and Logan Wilson stood to benefit the most. But Evans made the roster, which could keep the two rookies limited to special teams and sparse defensive snaps.
Fellow rookie Markus Bailey was also in line for playing time, but he was also firmly on the roster bubble, so his winners/losers status is more of a wash at this point. Wilson and Davis-Gaither have had their spots more secure and had a better chance at early playing time, but Evans remaining will hinder those chances.
Xavier Su’a-Filo and Michael Jordan
Heading into Week 1, Xavier Su’a-Filo and Michael Jordan look like the favorites to start at guard. However, the Bengals made a somewhat surprising move to keep Alex Redmond, who’s started 17 career games at right guard but has struggled mightily far too often. Redmond also missed most of training camp due to injury and was just activated this past week. Had the Bengals cut him, they would have saved $2.1 million.
For whatever reason, the Bengals still value Redmond, and if either of Jordan/Su’a-Filo struggles, Redmond could quickly snatch their starting spot, especially with his cap charge.
That’s not even accounting for Billy Price, who’s mainly working as the backup center but can also play either guard spot. Right tackle Fred Johnson also got reps at guard during training camp.
Su’a-Filo and Jordan may be Week 1 starters, but they probably won’t have a long leash with Redmond waiting in the wing.