Cincinnati made the necessary moves today to trim its roster down to 53 players. While some may find themselves back in the striped helmet Wednesday, many will have to clear waivers before being announced to the 16-man practice squad. Here are the moves made today to get down to the 53-man roster:
The defending AFC champions are looking to run it back with much of the same roster as last year. Thirty-eight of this year’s 53-man roster were on last year’s Super Bowl roster, with the differences coming on offensive line and at the bottom of the depth chart.
Additionally, it appears all six 2022 draft picks made the roster for the Bengals, as well as one undrafted rookie signing. With so many starters returning from the Super Bowl team, all the rookies will be expected to contribute in backup roles. First- and second-round defensive backs Daxton Hill and Cam Taylor-Brittfigure to factor heavily into the defensive rotation, though. Also in the secondary, cornerback Allan George is the lone UDFA from this year’s crop to make Cincinnati’s final roster.
To call it the final roster is a bit misleading as the Bengals will likely follow their own trends from last season, setting the roster up for multiple post-deadline moves. The roster currently includes 11 defensive backs, not including starting safety Jessie Bates, working currently on a roster exemption. Taylor-Britt could likely find his way to the four-week injured reserve list after undergoing core surgery recently. Defensive end Khalid Kareem will join Taylor-Britt on short-term IR, according to head coachZac Taylor, with a hamstring injury.
Many expect Cincinnati to mirror a roster move from last year with wide receiver Thomas. Thomas is a vested veteran who will avoid the waiver wire and is expected to re-sign with the team after a corresponding roster move, exactly what he did last year.
Finally, two position battles have been effectively decided with the waiving of long snapper Adomitis and punter Chrisman. Both intended to challenge incumbentsClark Harris and Kevin Huber from their long-time starting jobs. After avoiding being unseated, Huber is now on track to set a franchise record for games played in a Bengals uniform. Harris is close behind, trailing Huber by just six games.
The Bengals fell just short of their first ever Super Bowl win in their third appearance in the league’s season finale. As the final seconds ticked away, analysts’ fingers started pointing, with many of them directed at Cincinnati’s lackluster offensive line.
In their loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Bengals fielded Trey Hopkins at center, Jonah Williams at left tackle, Isaiah Prince at right tackle, Hakeem Adeniji at left guard, and Quinton Spain at right guard. Hopkins and Spain are free agents, no longer on the roster. Adeniji and Prince retain their roster spots, but are no longer projected to start. Williams, perhaps the only bright spot on the line last year, will return as the blindside blocker.
The Bengals worked ferociously in the offseason to address their deficiencies on offensive line. They signed three free agent offensive lineman who are all expected to come in and start right away. Ted Karras comes to Cincinnati after starting experience at center in both New England and Miami. Alex Cappa comes to town after three strong seasons as the Buccaneers’ starter at right guard. La’el Collins is ready to bookend the line with Williams after years of starting experience at right tackle in Dallas.
With Karras at center, Collins and Williams at tackle, and Cappa at right guard, that leaves one position up for grabs. The current favorite to start at left guard is 2021 second-round draft pick Jackson Carman. Carman served mainly as a backup last year for the Bengals earning six starts on the year while playing in every game. The main concern with starting Carman is the fact that he couldn’t supplant any of the lackluster starters from last year. Perhaps with a year of NFL football under his belt now, Carman will blossom into a strong starter at left guard.
The other favorite to man the last spot on the offensive line comes from Cincinnati’s most recent draft class, according to Ben Baby of ESPN. The Bengals used one draft pick this year on an offensive player, bestowing that honor upon the 23-year-old tackle out of North Dakota State, Cordell Volson. Volson served as the Bison’s right tackle in his last college years, but had experience at all four guard and tackle positions during his time in Fargo. That versatility will certainly come in handy as many college tackles tend to move to an interior lineman position if they aren’t projected to dominate as a tackle at the next level. Volson is sure to give Carman a run for his money as the Bengals look to put the finishing touch on their full offensive line renovation.
All the players mentioned above are the favorites to contribute on the offensive line this year, but the following players will attend camp with the hopes of stealing a starting job. At center, Cincinnati also rosters Trey Hill, Lamont Gaillard, and undrafted rookie Ben Brown. At guard, the Bengals’ roster lists D’Ante Smith and undrafted rookie Desmond Noel. The only tackle on the roster that wasn’t already mentioned is undrafted rookie Devin Cochran.
The 2019 sixth-round pick out of Georgia didn’t appear in a single game during his rookie season, but he was able to secure a role on the 2020 squad. Gaillard ultimately saw time in 13 games with two starts, appearing in 19-percent of his team’s offensive snaps. The 25-year-old also appeared in 16-percent of his team’s special teams snaps.
The Cardinals have completely revamped their center position this offseason. The team acquired Rodney Hudson in a trade with the Raiders, and that ultimately led to the trade of former starter Mason Cole, who was dealt to the Vikings. Gaillard would have been competing for the same rotational/backup spot in 2021, but seventh-round rookie Michal Menet will now have the inside track at the gig.
As Balzer notes, the team could still be in the market for another center. The Cardinals are currently rostering only 14 offensive lineman, a modest number for training camp.