Predicting the Last 5 In, Last 5 out for Cincinnati Bengals' Final 53-Man Roster
The unfortunate part of having such a quality team in the NFL during the offseason is that you will eventually have to make some cuts. The Cincinnati Bengals have arguably the most talented roster in football, but that means some tough decisions are on the way.
One of the first thoughts that come to mind when I think of this idea are the undrafted free agents. No matter what team they wind up on, they face uphill battles, and it's hard not to cheer for them. This year, Cincinnati got its hands on high-quality UDFAs in Trey Hopkins, Isaiah Lewis and James Wilder Jr.—how will things pan out for them.
Additionally, the acquisition of new faces could mean the exit of old faces like BenJarvus Green-Ellis. This is where it can become very difficult. Do you go with youth? Do you go with experience?
These 10 guys are certainly on the border, and here is where they will fall in the end.
Out: Brandon Tate
Recent reports from Cincy Jungle have indicated that the Bengals coaching staff wants more impact from the special teams unit, which could "be bad news for Tate."
Throughout his stint in Cincinnati, Tate has been reliable. And by that, I mean he's fumbled the football only twice since joining the team in 2011. Considering he's been the main guy on special teams in that time, that's pretty impressive.
Past that, there's not much about Tate that stands out. He's caught 14 balls (13 of which came in 2012) and scored only one touchdown on a punt return in 2011. With Adam Jones continuing to be a good source of special teams production and Darqueze Dennard and Giovani Bernard joining the fray, it doesn't seem much is left for Tate.
Two years ago, rumors were flying that he could be the No. 2 receiver in Cincinnati behind A.J. Green. Now Tate might be lucky just to find his way onto the 53-man roster.
In: Cobi Hamilton
The exit of Brandon Tate from Cincinnati should leave a big door wide open for second-year receiver Cobi Hamilton. Despite a lot of excitement from fans surrounding him at this time last year, Hamilton never saw the field for the Bengals during his rookie season.
This isn't to say Hamilton will see as many snaps as A.J. Green or even Dane Sanzenbacher, but it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Hue Jackson works him into the offense. He's big and physical, similar to his teammate Mohamed Sanu. With those two on the field at the same time, one of them should be able to fend off defenders to get open.
There's certainly a lot of potential here—Hamilton highlighted his career at Arkansas with a 1,335-yard performance during his senior season.
The second-year receiver should definitely break through on the team's 53-man roster and may be able to work his way past Ryan Whalen for reps. At best, though, I wouldn't expect him to climb higher than No. 5 on the depth chart.
Out: Marquis Flowers
The upside in the future for Marquis Flowers is that he was drafted as a linebacker while being built like Taylor Mays, a safety. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that he'll get a great many opportunities during his rookie season.
Flowers, a sixth-round selection a couple months ago, hits with great force and showed a solid ability to play all over the field on defense.
He was never as effective as someone like Manti Te'o was in his college role, but Flowers was a standout at Arizona. In 2012, he had a hand in five turnovers and made 5.5 sacks.
Being a linebacker, Flowers will develop well with Paul Guenther leading the defense. However, the corps is very crowded already, and even if he can play in the nickel as a safety, that position is crowded, too.
Not many sixth-round picks are expected to be NFL stars, but with a couple years of growth and perfecting his game, Flowers can use his speed and hit power to become a starting linebacker in Cincinnati. For now, he appears to be more of a candidate for the practice squad.
In: Trey Hopkins
With the constant shuffling of the offensive line during OTAs and minicamp, former Texas Longhorn Trey Hopkins has worked with the first-team offense. Not only did he get some reps, but also he was "doing well" according to Cincy Jungle.
Hopkins came to the team at the right time: Clint Boling and Mike Pollack are both hurt, and Tanner Hawkinson is beginning to transition to tackle, leaving only Hopkins, Kevin Zeitler, Dan France and Russell Bodine as the performing guards. Keep in mind, though, Bodine could be the team's starting center. (More on that, later.)
Plus, Zeitler will start at right guard, so Hopkins' big opportunity may come alongside Bodine on the left side. It's unclear as to how long Boling and Pollack will be sidelined, so this competition for the starting job may come down to Hopkins and Hawkinson.
At this point, Hopkins seems to be the UDFA that is standing out the most, and he should be rewarded for that with a roster spot.
Out: Sam Montgomery
Sam Montgomery remains to be a curious case in the NFL as he is loaded with potential that, to this point, hasn't been shown. It is unclear what his place would be on the 53-man roster as the team is carrying a lot of talented defensive ends already.
Despite solid numbers at LSU, Montgomery just hasn't translated his skills to the NFL game. Granted, that's judging off one NFL season that featured off-the-field trouble and locker-room issues that led to his release (per ESPN.com) from the Houston Texans, who drafted him in the third round of the 2013 Draft.
Montgomery isn't out because he isn't talented enough. He's out because the Bengals have so many young guys they seem determined to build around. Carlos Dunlap will be around for the next few seasons and will start. Wallace Gilberry had his best season to date last year with 7.5 sacks.
They also drafted Will Clarke in this year's draft and still have second-rounder Margus Hunt from the 2013 class. Even after that, long-time Bengal Robert Geathers and Dontay Moch are there as well.
With Montgomery's troubling off-the-field actions (no matter how questionable the details regarding his recent arrest in South Carolina, according to the New York Daily News) and yet-to-be-proven NFL talents, he just seems to be too big of a risk to award a roster spot.
In: Russell Bodine
Russell Bodine probably shouldn't be this close to the cut line, but because of the experience of his comrades on offense, he's probably close to it. Still, even as a "last five in," he very well could be the team's starting center.
He's got some learning to do and has to develop the chemistry with Andy Dalton that quarterbacks and centers should have, but things are going well for Bodine. He seems to be the front-runner for the starting job, according to Jason Marcum at Cincy Jungle.
Bodine already looks the part of the center, is strong enough to handle it and is also capable of moving over to either of the guard positions. This could be the edge he holds over Trevor Robinson, the speculated starter following Kyle Cook's release.
Bodine is the only guy on this list who should be starting Week 1.
Out: James Wilder Jr.
It probably was never a good chance for James Wilder Jr. to make the roster, but he still came into OTAs with more of a chance than any of the UDFAs.
Wilder was never a featured back at Florida State, but he averaged an incredible seven yards per carry during the Seminoles' recent championship run—and that came on 81 carries. He also found the end zone 21 times between the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
His downfall, though, could prove to be his durability. According to his draft profile on NFL.com, he leaves himself open to a lot of big hits in the middle of the body. That won't bode well against someone like D'Qwell Jackson, especially now that NFL rules essentially allow that to be the only area defenders can hit.
It will be interesting to see how Wilder progresses in the coming months. There's a lot on paper that suggests he can develop into a good running back, but he is going to need to work with Hue Jackson a lot and try to stay out of trouble off the field.
In: Dontay Moch
Since being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011, Dontay Moch has given the team no reason to believe he will be a good player in the NFL. However, Moch still has a lot to offer and seems determined to turn his career around after finally seeing the field in an Arizona Cardinals uniform.
Where Moch could have an edge over the aforementioned Sam Montgomery, Larry Black and David King is that he is also able to play linebacker. (I realize that both the defensive end and linebacker corps are not quite in need of his help.)
However, to have him available could be a plus if he's truly adjusted himself to playing in the NFL.
His claim to fame came in 2011 when he highlighted his NFL combine performance with a 40 time of 4.44 seconds, absolutely outstanding for a man of his stature. This should make him a solid pass-rusher coming off the edge to get around tackles, but no such luck has come of that potential so far.
With Montgomery out, Moch may even be able to do away with Robert Geathers at the position. If he can work his way into a rotation with Carlos Dunlap, Margus Hunt, Wallace Gilberry and Will Clarke, the NFL may see why he was once thought of so highly.
Out: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
BenJarvus Green-Ellis can ask Alex Smith what it's like to be a victim of circumstance.
Green-Ellis has completed two seasons with the Bengals. And while neither were abysmal, both seasons certainly weren't anything to write home about. Still, it seemed that the team was content to stick with him until the end of his contract at the end of the 2014 season.
That was until they drafted Jeremy Hill with their second-round draft selection back in May.
With two young faces on the team, and potentially a third with James Wilder Jr., it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to keep a $2.3 million salary on the books, especially for a player who has been working out with the third team.
That duty can certainly be taken over by younger guys like Wilder or Rex Burkhead. At this point, the efforts of Green-Ellis just haven't been enough to warrant keeping him around. As a featured running back, he managed only 1,094 yards in 2012 and 756 yards in 2013.
The speedy Giovani Bernard and power back Hill appear to be the new faces in town. Despite some of the best efforts of Green-Ellis' career, it seems he'll have to look to continue it somewhere else.
In: Isaiah Lewis
Given how crowded the safety position is becoming, this may seem like a far-fetched concept. However, the idea of Isaiah Lewis receiving an invitation to the 53-man roster shouldn't be too far out of reach.
While there are plenty of safeties in Cincinnati already, most of them are not exactly household names.
Reggie Nelson is the only one in the bunch who is capable of having truly locked down his position. George Iloka, the team's starting strong safety in 2013, had a good season, but not one that should warrant a firm grasp on the starting role.
After that, the competition is wide open for roster spots. Veteran Danieal Manning joined the team in free agency, and Taylor Mays is back in Cincinnati. Then there comes Shawn Williams, Isaiah Lewis and perhaps even Marquis Flowers. In the end, Lewis should get a spot on the 53-man roster.
This isn't a knock on any of those guys, but Lewis is very athletic and was a big player on the NCAA's best 2013 defense. Additionally, he played alongside first-round pick Darqueze Dennard, so they already have some chemistry on the field. He would also upgrade the special teams with his tenacity and physicality.
Lewis may be a bit of a project starting out, but he's got a great group of guys to work with and learn from.