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Tuesday Trenches: Projecting the Bengals’ 53-man roster

Taking my stab at the final 53-man roster.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL Draft is over, and free agency has slowed.

There are a handful of recognizable players available who haven’t yet been signed, but they’ll probably sit where they are for a while as teams see what they have right now. I’m sure the big names will land somewhere, but it may be after minicamps have started or after June 1, when some cap casualty cuts are made.

Right now, there are over 70 players on the roster, but here’s my best guess at who will be left after the Cincinnati Bengals whittle it down to 53.


Quarterback: Joe Burrow, Trevor Siemian

There’s no reason to carry a third quarterback on the roster and they signed Siemian for a reason. The Bengals are, and have been, to the point where all their eggs are in the Burrow basket. They’ll live and die by him. If he gets hurt, the season is over. They have a backup quarterback on the roster just so there’s somebody who can take snaps if Burrow can’t.

Running back: Joe Mixon, Chase Brown, Trayveon Williams

There’s still a chance Mixon is cut and replaced after June 1 because it would save the Bengals a little over $10 million, and he still does have pending legal issues. But at this point, I’d bet he’s the RB1 when the season starts. The Bengals didn’t replace him in free agency or the draft. They did replace Samaje Perine, though, by drafting Brown. Trayveon Williams should have a somewhat expanded role this year. My guess is Chris Evens is gone. He doesn’t get any playing time, and nobody really knows why.

Wide receiver: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Charlie Jones, Trent Irwin, Andrei Iosivas

Chase, Higgins, and Boyd are the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL. This will likely be their last year together. The Bengals selected Jones in the fourth round and obviously have plans for him in the future. Trent Irwin was involved more than Taylor in 2023, and the upside of Iosivas is too high to overlook.

Tight end: Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample, Devin Asiasi

The Bengals didn’t grab a tight end in the draft, which shows they’re okay with their starter being Irv Smith Jr., who signed as a free agent on a one-year deal. Smith has some injury concerns and will be backed up by Sample and Asiasi. This is the thinnest roster spot on the offensive depth chart.

Offensive line (starters in Week 1): Orlando Brown Jr., Cordell Volson, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, Jonah Williams

The Rest: Jackson Carman, La’el Collins, Hakeem Adeniji, Trey Hill, Cody Ford, D’Ante Smith

If Jonah Williams is healthy in Week 1, I expect him to start opposite of Brown, but the interior offensive line will likely remain the same. If Williams struggles with the transition, I could see Carman moving in or Collins once he’s healthy. As for the rest of the backups, the Bengals obviously like versatile guys who can play multiple positions like Ford, Adeniji, and Carman.


Defensive end: Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Myles Murphy, Joseph Ossai, Cam Sample

The Bengals added Murphy in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft to help the defense boost their pass rush. He’ll be a rotational piece. Hubbard or Murphy may be able to rotate inside on obvious passing downs as well. Ossai and Sample, like Murphy, will rotate and give starters a breather.

Defensive tackle: DJ Reader, B.J. Hill, Zach Carter, Josh Tupou, Jeff Gunter

This is the defensive position with the least depth. Reader and Hill are the starters and Carter, Tupou, and Gunter will rotate in and out just to give the two big guys the occasional breather, but the Bengals could (and probably should) look to add some more depth here. This is also Reader’s last year under contract.

Linebacker: Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Tarell Basham

The Bengals’ base defense may be a 3-4, but they play in nickel the vast majority of the time, with an extra defensive back and two linebackers. Wilson and Pratt are the two starters, and ADG will get some snaps as well. Basham would go in when an extra pass rusher is needed. This is Wilson’s last year under contract.

Cornerback: Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt, Mike Hilton, DJ Turner, Sidney Jones IV, Jalen Davis

The Bengals fixed their cornerback depth problem by selecting Turner in the second round of the draft. He’ll likely step in first if there’s an issue with one of the starters on the outside. Davis will be Hilton’s backup in the slot, and they have Jones as well if he’s needed. DJ Ivey, who was drafted as well, probably doesn’t make the cut.

Safety: Dax Hill, Nick Scott, Jordan Battle, Michael Thomas, Tycen Anderson

After losing Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III, the Bengals are looking to replace them with Hill and Scott, but they selected Battle in the third round, who could push Scott for a starting spot at some point this year. I think they’ll keep Anderson around for a fifth safety just because of the relative inexperience at the position, and they may need to keep their options open.

Special Teams

PK: Evan McPherson
P and H: Brad Robbins
LS: Cal Adomitis

McPherson is still the kicker, and the Bengals wouldn’t have drafted Robbins if they didn’t plan on him being the team’s punter when the season starts, and there’s no need to replace Adomitis.

This is probably not correct. The tricky part is who backs who up and where. The Bengals have a few offensive linemen who could play multiple spots. Does that mean they keep less backups? The same goes for a few different positions. The Bengals could still move on from Mixon or find a better backup in free agency on the offensive or defensive line.

The NFL changed the rules so that there is only one required cut day now, and it’s going to be on August 29th. We won’t fully know which players will make the 53-man roster until that day, but outside of a few bubble players, we have a pretty good idea.

Who do you think I left out? Who do you think is on my roster that won’t make it?