The Bengals are signing free agent defensive end Noah Spence, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). Cincinnati brought Spence in for a workout several days ago in the wake of injuries to DLs Khalid Kareem and Joseph Ossai, and as Pelissero notes in a separate tweet, Ossai is likely to miss the entire 2021 campaign. The third-round rookie sustained a meniscus injury that will require surgery.
The loss of Ossai will be an especially difficult pill for the Bengals to swallow. The club mustered a league-worst 17 sacks in 2020, and while the free agent addition of Trey Hendrickson was supposed to help offset Carl Lawson‘s defection to the Jets, Cincy was also relying on Ossai to play a significant role in its pass rush. The Texas product did not disappoint in his preseason debut against the Bucs last week, piling up five pressures and sacking Tom Brady in an absolutely dominant showing.
Unfortunately, Ossai suffered a wrist injury during that game, and as he was being examined for that ailment the following day, he also noted that he was feeling some knee pain. Further examination of the knee revealed the depth of the problem (Twitter link via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic).
Spence, meanwhile, has not done much since a promising 5.5-sack performance in his rookie season with Tampa Bay in 2016. The former second-round pick did not make it to the final year of his rookie contract with the Bucs, as he was waived as part of final cutdowns in August 2019. He hooked on with Washington several weeks later, but after seven games with WFT yielded just one sack and three tackles, he was waived again.
The 27-year-old signed with the Saints later that year. He did not get into a game with New Orleans, but the club saw enough from him in practice to re-sign him to a one-year contract for 2020. Unfortunately, a torn ACL suffered in May of that year knocked him out for the season, and after he signed another one-year pact this March, Spence was unable to carve out a spot on the Saints’ roster. He was cut one week ago.
The Bengals hope that Spence can finally start to unlock some of his potential in the Queen City. They are going to need it.