Now, there still could be some moves that are made up until the waiver process concludes at noon Wednesday, and the practice squad will be filled in from there.
“It’s the hardest because you have a higher number of quality players that are worthy of being on it as opposed to maybe there are years where you have 49 or 50 and you’re trying to sort through it,” coach Taylor said. “It can be difficult that way, too. But I think this year, I thought our 90-man roster was as strong as it’s ever been. Obviously, that leads to more difficult decisions there for the final 53.”
Among the most notable decisions that had to be made, the Bengals terminated the contracts of quarterback Trevor Siemian and wide receiver and punt returner Trent Taylor, and they waived offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji, punter Drue Chrisman and defensive end Raymond Johnson III, who had plenty of highlights this preseason but was edged out of a crowded defensive line unit.
With Siemian out, Jake Browning is the new backup quarterback. Browning has spent the past two seasons on the Bengals’ practice squad but has not played an NFL game, yet he beat out the more experienced Siemian with a better showing the final week of camp and in the preseason finale.
Zac Taylor said the Bengals may look outside for a No. 3 to add but he’s not planning on someone taking Browning’s place.
“I feel really good about Jake being the No. 2,” coach Taylor said.
Asked if Joe Burrow would be back to practice this week, coach Taylor said “we’ll see,” and when asked if his status was impacted by contract negotiations, he said “no” and did not elaborate.
Trent Taylor’s status was in doubt because of the draft addition of Charlie Jones, a former Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year, but Jones’ shoulder injury also paved a path for Taylor to remain. Jones has decided to play through the injury and showed enough in the preseason to indicate he could fill that role without issue.
“I think he improved every single week,” coach Taylor said of Jones. “... It’s hard any time you’re parting ways with a guy like Trent Taylor, who we have a lot of respect for. He’s made some big plays for us over the years. That’s a difficult decision. But it does speak to Charlie and the improvement we feel like he’s made and we feel like his best days are certainly in front of him.”
Adeniji, who just two seasons ago played in the Super Bowl with the Bengals, was pushed to the back of the depth chart midway through training camp and lost out on his backup tackle role with Jackson Carman and D’Ante Smith getting the nod to back up Jonah Williams and new left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
The Bengals kept 10 offensive linemen, including Trey Hill, whose job appeared to be in jeopardy when Max Scharping started taking snaps as a backup center. They also elected to keep four running backs on the roster, instead of cutting down to three, and instead went lighter at wide receiver with six, including preseason standout rookie Andrei Iosivas. They kept three tight ends with Mitchell Wilcox remaining over Tanner Hudson, whose contract was terminated.
Coach Taylor said the third-down running back is still a competition with Trayveon Williams expected back from injury this week. He complimented Chris Evans and Chase Brown for their performance this preseason but Williams still has a shot despite missing most of training camp.
Chrisman missed half of training camp because of a medical issue that sent him to the hospital the first official practice day, but the Bengals sent a clear sign they thought they could do better when they drafted Brad Robbins as competition. Robbins, a sixth-round pick, now assumes the punter and holder role.
Veteran safety Michael Thomas also had his contract terminated, as did Stanley Morgan, which are two big losses to special teams. The Bengals can still re-sign them if spots open or as part of their 16-player practice squad, but coach Taylor said those were “two of the harder conversations” that happened Tuesday.
Cornerback Sidney Jones was the other vested veteran cut, which allowed room for rookie seventh-round pick DJ Ivey to stay put.
Others who were waived include tight ends Devin Asiasi, Nick Bowers and Christian Trahan, safeties Yusuf Corker and Larry Brooks, offensive guards Jaxson Kirkland and Ben Brown, defensive ends Jeff Gunter and Owen Carney, wide receivers Malachi Carter, Mac Hippenhammer, Shedrick Jackson and Kwamie Lassister II, defensive tackle Domenique Davis, cornerback Allan George, center Nate Gilliam, linebacker Keandre Jones, Jaylen Moody, Tyler Murray and Shaka Heyward, quarterback Reid Sinnett and halfback Jacob Saylors and Calvin Tyler Jr.