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Bengals 53-player roster projection 1.0

We’re playing it safe for our first projection of the Summer.

NFL: MAY 13 Cincinnati Bengals Rookie Minicamp Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The heart of OTA season is always a good time to take a gander at what the Cincinnati Bengals roster may look like when September rolls around.

For our first run-through, this isn’t about making any bold predictions, rather just laying out what the roster would likely be if the cutdown had to happen today. There are several undrafted free agents that can feasibly make the roster, we just haven’t seen them do much of anything yet!

Injuries are an annoyance to all types of projections, but they are an inevitability leading up to the season. Since the Bengals aren’t facing any ailments that will impact their regular season plans as of now, we’re going to use that current luck with this projection. But as the Summer progresses and further projections are rolled out, injuries will surely play a factor in the subsequent changes.

Quarterbacks (2)

  • Joe Burrow
  • Brandon Allen

Now’s a good time to mention the Bengals have two available roster spots before they reach the 90-player limit. I say that here because it’s honestly a bit shocking they only have three quarterbacks under contract right now. Four is usually the number they carry through the heart of camp, but maybe Jake Browning is simply going to get all the third-string reps. He’s still unlikely to beat out Allen to hold the tablet for Burrow.

Running backs (4)

  • Joe Mixon
  • Samaje Perine
  • Chris Evans
  • Trayveon Williams

Personally, carrying four running backs with an elite quarterback and receiving corps seems excessive, but four is always a good guess for this team. Williams stuck around despite the addition of Evans last year, and Perine is still well-liked in the locker room and among the staff. Circumstances could certainly push the number down to three.

Wide receivers (6)

  • Ja’Marr Chase
  • Tee Higgins
  • Tyler Boyd
  • Mike Thomas
  • Stanley Morgan Jr.
  • Trent Taylor

To reiterate the opening paragraphs, this isn’t about making bold predictions. These are the six right now, and it’s very much subject to change. Thomas and Morgan seem to have enough security and trust to make it through, especially Morgan with his two-year deal. Taylor has earned trust as a punt-returner, and that’s where Kwamie Lassiter II can make his mark. Seven should be in play as well, we just have to see which undrafted rookies want it the most.

Tight ends (3)

  • Hayden Hurst
  • Drew Sample
  • Mitchell Wilcox

Going beyond three here is unnecessary and unexpected. The strength of the group doesn’t warrant four as anyone who looks promising in camp and the preseason can safely be stashed on the practice squad. The question will be if Thad Moss, Nick Eubanks, or maybe even Scotty Washington can prove themselves on special teams to replace Wilcox.

Offensive linemen (9)

  • La’el Collins
  • Jonah Williams
  • Alex Cappa
  • Ted Karras
  • Jackson Carman
  • D’Ante Smith
  • Cordell Volson
  • Trey Hill
  • Isaiah Prince

Perhaps the most notable omission in this entire piece is Hakeem Adeniji, who I’d believe would make it if they were to go 10 here. Unless he plays and practices exponentially better than he was last year, there should be no issue getting him back on the practice squad. Prince may have the edge with the addition of Volson boosting interior depth and a potential need for depth behind Collins, who has a history of missing games, at right tackle.

Defensive linemen (10)

  • Trey Hendrickson
  • Sam Hubbard
  • D.J. Reader
  • B.J. Hill
  • Joseph Ossai
  • Khalid Kareem
  • Josh Tupou
  • Zach Carter
  • Cam Sample
  • Tyler Shelvin

The most interesting aspect of camp, to me at least, will be if Wyatt Hubert and Jeff Gunter can push Kareem and Sample enough to earn a spot. Hubert never got a chance to compete in camp due to a torn pectoral, and Gunter is already one of the team’s most athletic edge defenders. Shelvin gets a spot right now simply because depth inside is needed, but a strong camp is likely needed.

Linebackers (5)

  • Logan Wilson
  • Germaine Pratt
  • Akeem Davis-Gaither
  • Markus Bailey
  • Joe Bachie

For sure the group that can be light to start out. There’s no debate for the top four here, and Bachie put enough quality tape to come back for another year. Clay Johnston and college free agent Carson Wells should be poised to push Bachie for what should be the last spot.

Cornerbacks (6)

  • Chidobe Awuzie
  • Mike Hilton
  • Eli Apple
  • Cam Taylor-Britt
  • Tre Flowers
  • Jalen Davis

There’s a good argument to go light here with Dax Hill coming in with ample slot experience, but carrying just five true corners is dangerous game. We’ll stick with the main six for now before we see how Hill will be fully integrated into the defense when camp comes around.

Safeties (5)

  • Jessie Bates III
  • Vonn Bell
  • Dax Hill
  • Brandon Wilson
  • Tycen Anderson

Wilson for sure seems to be a 50/50 with the additions of Hill and Anderson, but if no one else can supplant him as a kickoff returner, then that role will continue to be his. The expectation is Bates will return in time for the season, and the team is not petty enough to trade one of their best seasons coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

Specialists (3)

  • Clark Harris
  • Kevin Huber
  • Evan McPherson

Do I think both Harris and Huber ultimately make the team? I can’t give a confident answer yet. It seems like it could be both or neither depending how long-snapper Cal Adomitis and punter Drue Chrisman work in tandem. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons certainly isn’t eager to discard two reliable veterans, but if the situation calls for it, don’t rule it out.