DJ Turner

Latest On Bengals’ Secondary

Breakdowns in the secondary played a key role in the Bengals missing the postseason in 2023, and the team has made a number of moves in that area in recent months. The safety spot has seen the arrival of one veteran (Geno Stone) along with a reunion with another (Vonn Bell).

The latter was in Cincinnati from 2020-22, serving as a full-time starter alongside Jessie Bates during that time. Bell departed last offseason by inking a three-year Panthers pact, although he only wound up playing a single campaign in Carolina. Bell and the Bengals reunited on a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum in March.

The 29-year-old is, to no surprise, in line to reprise a starting role in his second Cincinnati stint. Bell took first-team reps during offseason practices, as detailed by Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic (subscription required). He and Stone occupying starter’s workloads would relegate Jordan Battle to a depth/special teams capacity. The 2023 third-rounder logged seven starts last season, but he was one of a number of Bengals defensive backs who struggled in coverage. The additions of Stone and Bell will provide the team with experienced options, although it will be interesting to see if Battle can compete for a full-time defensive gig in training camp.

Of course, one of the other main offseason developments the Bengals have seen is the transition of Dax Hill from safety to perimeter corner. The 2022 first-rounder was lauded for his positional versatility coming out of college, but things have not gone according to plan for him so far. Hill primarily played in the slot when he was used at corner with Michigan, making this summer an important time to acclimate to spending time on the outside.

If Hill manages to get comfortable with his new position, a starting role should await him in the fall. The 23-year-old worked with the first-team defense this spring, per the Dayton Daily News’ Laurel Pfahler. Hill and 2023 second-rounder DJ Turner could be competing for a starter’s spot during camp in a cornerback room which lost Chidobe Awuzie in free agency. Veteran slot man Mike Hilton and 21-game starter Cam Taylor-Britt are still in place from last season.

Cincinnati ranked 31st in the league in passing yards allowed last season, and the play of the team’s secondary will be worth watching closely in 2024. New faces at safety could provide needed stability on the backend while Hill’s success in playing at corner will no doubt go a long way in determining the team’s willingness to pick up his fifth-year option after the season ends. With three years remaining on their respective rookie deals , meanwhile, Battle and Turner will have plenty of time to regain first-team roles if they start the year in a rotational capacity.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/18/23

This week’s callups and minor moves heading into Sunday:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers:

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Evans had been called up from the practice squad three times by the Cowboys, meaning he needed to be added to the 53-man roster this week to continue suiting up. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports “several teams” attempted to poach the veteran off the taxi squad, but his decision to remain with Dallas has culminated in today’s move. Evans has logged 74 combined defensive and special teams snaps with the Cowboys so far, recording three tackles.

James was out of the lineup for one game after being designated for return, but he will be eligible to suit up for the upcoming Super Bowl rematch against the Eagles. Mentioned as a trade candidate earlier this year, he will be able to add depth to a WR corps which has underperformed to date, and add to his single catch recorded in his two Kansas City games at the start of the campaign.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/30/23

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • Signed to active roster: RB Devine Ozigbo
  • Promoted: OL Michael Niese

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

Tennessee Titans

After getting cut by the Steelers earlier this month, Gunner Olszewski quickly caught on with New York’s practice squad. They Giants signed the receiver/returner to the active roster ahead of yesterday’s game against the Jets, and their decision to release him today was merely procedural. As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero points out, all vested vets who are released following tomorrow’s trade deadline are subject to waivers. The Giants are apparently getting ahead of that deadline with this roster machination. Per Pelissero, Olszewski is expected to re-sign with the Giants and will play in Week 9.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/13/23

Here are today’s minor transactions as we close the first week of the preseason:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Claimed off waivers (from Lions): CB Tae Hayes

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Reyes retires from the sport of football after only two years in the league. A former basketball player with dreams of playing in the NBA, Reyes applied for and was admitted into the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program out of Chile. Despite spending time with three teams, Reyes only suited up for regular season action in Washington, where he played 11 games, starting one. As a tight end, Reyes mostly made an impact on special teams during his career. He retires at the age of 27.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/12/23

Saturday’s minor moves:

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Hayes was signed one week ago as the Lions were dealing with injuries in the secondary, but he will now be on the lookout for another new team. The 25-year has appeared in 13 career regular season games while bouncing around the league.

The Raiders added one ex-Chiefs running back in Damien Williams yesterday, and they have done so again today. Thompson was part of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning squad in 2019, and remain with the Chiefs the following season. He made 31 combined regular and postseason appearances in Kansas City, but he has yet to see game action since 2020. Especially until Josh Jacobs returns to the Raiders, Thompson will aim to earn a depth role in the Vegas backfield.

Bengals Finish Draft Class With Wave Of Signings

Trailing only the 49ers and Cowboys (who didn’t have a pick in the first two rounds to sign), the Bengals were the third team this year to announce the signing of their entire rookie class. All this despite only having signed one pick coming into today, announcing the second before noon earlier in the day. Having already agreed to rookie deals with first-round defensive end Myles Murphy and fifth-round running back Chase Brown, the team’s announcement today reveals the signing of six other draft picks.

Cincinnati double-dipped on outside playmakers on both sides of the ball in this year’s draft. They used their second-round pick to select Michigan cornerback DJ Turner and their seventh-round pick on Miami cornerback DJ Ivey. Turner provides some immediate starting ability on both the perimeter and at nickel. Ivey may not project as an immediate starter, but he has an ideal frame and can contribute if given enough opportunity. Also in the secondary, third-round safety Jordan Battle should be able to compete with Daxton Hill for a starting spot alongside Nick Scott in the defensive backfield.

They doubled-up on wide receivers, as well, selecting Purdue’s Charlie Jones in the fourth round and Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas in the sixth. The Bengals are pretty set in their starting wideouts with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, but Jones and Iosivas provide some strong backup options. Jones, a former walk-on at Iowa who led the country in receptions last year at Purdue, should have a strong path to a roster spot as a backup receiver and returner. He should be able to challenge Trent Taylor and Trayveon Williams for returning duties on both punts and kicks. Iosivas provides the Cincinnati offense with yet another tall, lengthy receiving option on the outside.

In the sixth round, the Bengals also went after Michigan punter Brad Robbins. The team relied on practice squad punter Drue Chrisman last year after moving on from long-time punter Kevin Huber. Robbins should provide some strong competition for Chrisman for the starting punter duties. Here is Cincinnati’s 2023 draft class:

Round 1, No. 28: Myles Murphy, DE (Clemson) (signed)
Round 2, No. 60: DJ Turner, CB (Michigan) (signed)
Round 3, No. 95 (from Chiefs): Jordan Battle, S (Alabama) (signed)
Round 4, No. 131: Charlie Jones, WR (Purdue) (signed)
Round 5, No. 163: Chase Brown, RB (Illinois) (signed)
Round 6, No. 206: Andrei Iosivas, WR (Princeton) (signed)
Round 6, No. 217 (from Chiefs): Brad Robbins, P (Michigan) (signed)
Round 7, No. 246: DJ Ivey, CB (Miami) (signed)

AFC North Draft Rumors: Steelers, Ravens, Bengals

There have been quite a few rumors surrounding the Steelers’ potential approach to the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette held a Q&A this week to discuss his thoughts on some of those rumors.

Many fans had questions about potential options at wide receiver, and Dulac made his thoughts very clear: no higher than the third round. With Diontae Johnson and George Pickens in place, Dulac doesn’t see any need to dip into the first two rounds to add to the group. He mentions Ole Miss wide receiver Jonathan Mingo as a name to lookout for, as Mingo has been predicted to go around the third or fourth round.

Another fan asked about the possibility of Pittsburgh trading up in the first round. Dulac dismissed the rumors as just that, insinuating that looking into trades is a common occurrence for the Steelers that doesn’t always lead to action. He referenced last year, when the team reportedly looked into trading up for quarterback Kenny Pickett, who would end up falling to them at their original position, anyway.

Here are a few other draft rumors from around the AFC North:

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/9/23

18 teams had their seasons come to an end yesterday, and their front offices have already turned the page to the 2023 NFL seaon. This started today, as a number of players were signed to reserve/futures contracts, which allows organizations to retain (routinely) young, practice squad players throughout the offseason. Here are today’s reserve/futures contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

  • WR Ty Fryfogle

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Washington Commanders

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 12/20/22

Today’s practice squad transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

  • Signed: QB James Morgan
  • Released: QB Carson Strong

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Signed: G Parker Ferguson, DB Devon Key
  • Released: LB Harvey Langi

Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks

  • Signed: DT Jarrod Hewitt

Tennessee Titans

Raiders Activate TE Darren Waller, WR Hunter Renfrow

Derek Carr and the Raiders offense will be getting some significant reinforcement. The Raiders have activated tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow from injured reserve, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter).

Waller hasn’t seen the field since October but it took the front office a month to finally place him on IR, delaying his required four-game absence. After two-straight 1,000-yard campaigns in 2019 and 2020, Waller was limited to 665 receiving yards in 11 games in 2021. His hamstring injury has limited him to only five appearances in 2022, with the former Pro Bowler hauling in 16 receptions for 175 yards and one score. Waller inked a three-year, $51MM extension with the Raiders back in September.

Renfrow has dealt with a handful of injuries in 2022, limiting him to 21 receptions in six games before being sidelined. The 26-year-old was coming off a breakout campaign in 2021 that saw him haul in 103 receptions en route to a Pro Bowl nod. The wideout inked a $32MM deal with the organization during the offseason.

Without Waller and Renfrow in the lineup, the Raiders have been leaning heavily on Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs, with both players having already topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The Raiders second-leading receiver this season has been Mack Hollins, who has hauled in 47 catches for 588 yards and three touchdowns.

The Raiders made a handful of additional moves as they prepare for tomorrow’s game against the Patriots. Las Vegas promoted offensive linemen Sebastian Gutierrez and Jordan Meredith to the active roster. To make room for today’s transaction, the Raiders cut wide receiver DJ Turner and tight end Jacob Hollister.