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Final Bengals 53-player roster projection

The “final” roster is about to be set. Here’s our last projection.

NFL: AUG 27 Preseason - Rams at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nothing about NFL rosters are final, but as the deadline to reach 53 players is upon us, this is the last time a roster projection can be made for the Cincinnati Bengals.

It bears repeating that this iteration of the 53-player roster is only procedural and it may not reflect what the Week 1 roster ends up becoming. There are still moves to be made depending on how the 31 other clubs “finalize” their own rosters.

Quarterbacks (2)

  • Joe Burrow
  • Brandon Allen

A few things can all be true when it comes to this group. Jake Browning could’ve outplayed Allen over the last three weeks, Zac Taylor and his offensive staff could see that as confirmation that Browning deserves a practice squad spot, and there was never really a QB2 competition in the first place.

Or maybe there was, and Browning needed to do more to unseat Allen.

Running backs (3)

  • Joe Mixon
  • Samaje Perine
  • Chris Evans

The workhorse, his confidant, and the wild card. If there actually was a battle for Evans to supplant Perine as Mixon’s backup, he didn’t win it. But he did run with the kick returner job, and there’s a long season for him to take offensive snaps away from Perine.

One of Trayveon Williams or Jacques Patrick should clear waivers to end up on the practice squad.

Wide receivers (6)

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

For starters, hats off to Trenton Irwin for showing out on Saturday. That performance could land him a deserved roster spot somewhere else. The Bengals are just too stacked at slot receiver to carry him on the 53, so the practice squad is where they’ll hope to keep him.

The same goes for at least one of Kwamie Lassiter II and Kendric Pryor as they became the latest rookie Bengals receivers to light up the preseason. With some probable roster gymnastics inbound, perhaps one of them will ink a one-year deal to return upon being waived.

Added back to the roster: Kendric Pryor

Tight ends (3)

  • Hayden Hurst
  • Drew Sample
  • Mitchell Wilcox

This seems to be where the Bengals be aggressive in scouring the waiver wire. Ideally, Wilcox will be 100% for the season opener, as he just fits the third tight end role better than Thaddeus Moss at this point. But if Wilcox isn’t expected to suit up by then, scooping up a TE3 after he goes on I.R. to return would be the move.

Justin Rigg, who outperformed Moss in the preseason finale, is also an option to activate on Week 1 from the practice squad, where he’s expected to land.

Offensive linemen (10)

  • La’el Collins
  • Jonah Williams
  • Alex Cappa
  • Ted Karras
  • Cordell Volson
  • Hakeem Adeniji
  • Trey Hill
  • D’Ante Smith
  • Jackson Carman
  • Isaiah Prince (moved to I.R. to return)

The benefit of being a second-round pick is that it’s pretty costly to get cut before your second season begins. Carman might not be one of the Bengals’ 10 best offensive linemen, but the Bengals don’t like lighting cap space on fire. Waiving Carman and his fully guaranteed salary for this year would cost them about $1.4 million against the cap. Not an impossible task, but not a likely one either.

Prince could’ve really used the reps these last two weeks, as his bicep injury makes him an ideal injured reserve candidate to return later. Expect names like Nathan Gilliam, Devin Cochran, and Lamont Gaillard to clear waivers and end up on the practice squad.

Defensive linemen (10)

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

You gotta feel for Kareem. A torn labrum suffered during last year’s preseason finale knocked him out for half the regular season. He didn’t even play in this year’s final preseason game due to a hamstring injury. That shouldn’t warrant him being placed on I.R. and missing a minimum of four games, but there could be chances early for Gunter to contribute.

Leaving Noah Spence off the initial 53 was the toughest decision made here, but the 28-year old edge rusher would be welcomed back with open arms on the practice squad. Perhaps the same will happen with Tyler Shelvin.

Linebackers (5)

  • Logan Wilson
  • Germaine Pratt
  • Akeem Davis-Gaither
  • Markus Bailey
  • Clay Johnston

Johnston has flashed throughout the preseason, which has made things easier with Joe Bachie still recovering from his torn ACL from last year. Bachie not going on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list last week along with Brandon Wilson is at least somewhat notable. He’s not ready to play since he hasn’t practiced at all, and maybe they wanted to give him a week in case he returned in time. A move to the Reserve/PUP list with the expectation to return is what’s in store for him.

Cornerbacks (7)

  • Chidobe Awuzie
  • Mike Hilton
  • Eli Apple
  • Tre Flowers
  • Allan George
  • Jalen Davis
  • Cam Taylor-Britt (moved to I.R. to return)

Taylor-Britt’s core injury has kept him out for a few weeks now, and we just don’t how much longer he needs to recover. What we do know is both George and Davis have done well this month, and cornerback depth is always needed no matter how strong your starting group is. The final composition of this group seems like the biggest mystery with only four *healthy* players being locks. A waiver wire pickup is definitely in play as well.

Safeties (4)

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

All is right in the world with Bates back in the fold. Hill has done everything they’ve wanted to see in Bates’ place during the preseason, and Anderson has flashed enough to keep a spot.

Michael Thomas has a role on special teams and in the locker room, so waiving him and bringing back the savvy vet soon after conducting other roster moves should be feasible. They did this last year with Mike Thomas, the wide receiver.

Added back to the roster: Michael Thomas

Specialists (3)

  • Clark Harris
  • Drue Chrisman
  • Evan McPherson

In a perfect world, they would keep Kevin Huber just for a week so he could play against the Pittsburgh Steelers one last time, break Ken Riley’s record for most games played as a Bengal, and have him pass the torch to Chrisman afterwards.

In reality, it’ll likely be Chrisman who makes his debut against the Steelers, and Huber will have two weeks to find work with another team. The option with the most upside is the correct one if all else is equal, and everything has been about equal between Chrisman and Huber.