Bengals keep veteran punter as final roster decisions are made

The Cincinnati Bengals had some difficult decisions to make with the back end of their roster, but the punter competition was at the forefront going into final cuts.

Cincinnati elected to keep its core specialists together for another year.

Veteran Kevin Huber retained his job as punter and holder despite competition this preseason and will continue playing a key role in what kicker Evan McPherson does, along with returning long snapper Clark Harris.

Huber and Harris’ inclusion on the 53-man roster for a 13th season with the Bengals means Drue Chrisman and Cal Adomitis are out of a job at least temporarily. NFL teams had to get their rosters down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday, though there still will be some shuffling expected, and players who clear waivers can be signed to the 16-player practice squad.

“Kevin’s had a really strong last couple of weeks of camp,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “He’s been consistent, we know we’re getting there. Again, we think we’ve got a strong football team and he brings the consistency to that, that we’re aware of, and we think he’ll do a really good job for us.”

Huber, a McNicholas High alumnus, beat out Chrisman, a LaSalle High School grad, in a battle the team expected to occur last year before Chrisman missed the start of training camp with a hand injury. Chrisman had signed as a college free agent out of Ohio State in 2021 and spent his rookie season in and out of the practice squad with four separate stints. He signed a reserve/future deal with the Bengals on Feb. 7, and the organization was intrigued enough to see if he could be their punter of the future, now.

Both punters were considered to be close in comparison throughout training camp and the preseason with Chrisman having an edge in distance and Huber standing out more in directional punting. Huber’s longevity with the franchise is unique, as he has spent his entire NFL career in his hometown and is the Bengals’ longest-tenured player. He finished 2021 with 207 career games played for Cincinnati, tying him with the late Ken Riley for most in team history, and he will break the record assuming he suits up for the opener Sept. 11 as expected.

The University of Cincinnati product averaged 46.4 gross yards per punt last year with 22 inside the 20s and six to touchbacks. He leads the Bengals in every significant career punting category but had struggled with consistency last year, which led to the anticipated competition with Chrisman.

“It’s difficult to be that consistent over a long period of time, and there’s certainly luck involved there as well, in terms of an injury history and all the things that play into that, and so, he’s put himself in a really good position to have the career that he’s had,” Taylor said. “It is an incredible story for someone that’s grown up here, played their college ball here and was drafted here. You know, that’s a neat part of it. That’s not what we base our decisions on. But now that we’re here, you know, it is good for him.”

Harris, who began his career in 2008 with Houston before joining the Bengals in 2009, was competing at long snapper with Adomitis, who played five seasons at the University of Pittsburgh and signed as a college free agent in May. However, it was clear throughout camp that Harris was the preferred long snapper.

Among other roster decisions, the Bengals decided to keep a fourth running back with Trayveon Williams making the final cut, and that decision likely impacted the ability to keep an extra wide receiver.

“It’s not every year that we’ll keep four backs,” Taylor said. “I thought Trayveon’s approach has been really solid over the last spring and this fall to where as you’re debating where to put that spot and who’s earned it, Trayveon has earned it. I like the direction that he’s heading. So we’ll let him continue to find a role with us. Just really pleased with the job that Trayveon’s done over the last couple of months.”

Undrafted college free agent wide receivers Kendric Pryor and Kwamie Lassiter and Trenton Irwin were among the cuts, and Cincinnati terminated the contract of veteran wide receiver Mike Thomas.

Taylor said the team hopes to bring back Thomas, who does not have to clear waivers to re-sign.

Safety Trayvon Henderson and defensive end Noah Spence also had their contracts terminated as vested veterans, releasing them to free agency with the ability to sign with another team or re-sign with the Bengals.

Linebacker Joe Bachie (knee) was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which means he will have to sit out four weeks. Taylor said cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (core muscle) and defensive end Khalid Kareem (hamstring) are expected to be place on injured reserve Wednesday, which will open two more spots on the roster.

A total of 23 players were waived. The others were quarterback Jake Browning, offensive tackles Devin Cochran and Domenique Davis, cornerbacks Javaris Davis and Delonte Hood, tight ends Nick Eubanks, Thad Moss and Justin Rigg, offensive guards Lamont Gaillard, Nate Gilliam and Desmond Noel, linebackers Clarence Hicks, Keandre Jones and Tegray Scales, defensive end Raymond Johnson III, halfback Jacques Patrick and defensive tackles Tyler Shelvin and Tariqious Tisdale.

Cincinnati had one extra roster spot to use with Jessie Bates still on an exemption. That means another cut will need to be made when he is activated to the roster, but it’s easier to sign players to the practice squad once other teams have filled their rosters.

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