5 Cincinnati Bengals Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
Coming into the 2014 season, the Cincinnati Bengals have arguably the deepest roster in the NFL while still having one of the youngest ones. Think about some of the stars on this team—A.J. Green is entering his fourth season, Giovani Bernard his second, Marvin Jones his third and even the mighty Geno Atkins is entering his fifth.
However, like with any roster there are seasoned veterans who won't make the cut. There are those who believe the older, experienced players are the better ones to have, but when you're thinking about winning a Super Bowl and retaining some of your best young players, that narrative can't always be followed.
The Bengals have two young running backs now, leaving the status of BenJarvus Green-Ellis in question. Robert Geathers, one of the team's defensive ends, is the longest-tenured Cincinnati Bengal not named Marvin Lewis. With young guys essentially surrounding him (Margus Hunt, Will Clarke, Carlos Dunlap), will he be back for 2014?
Plenty of names could fall on this list, so who are they?
Honorable Mentions: Jayson DiManche/J.K Schaffer/Brandon Joiner/Sean Porter
This corps of linebackers is in for an interesting preseason battle, as these players are likely fighting for one spot. I didn't include Dontay Moch on this list mostly because I'm of the belief that he's in.
DiManche and Schaffer: These guys have largely been special teams players since they joined the team. Among the many injuries last season to James Harrison and Rey Maualuga, DiManche saw some in-game time on defense, which may save him from being cut loose.
Porter and Joiner: To call these guys veterans may be pushing the definition of that word since neither of them have true in-game experiences. Their performance in the preseason is largely what will make or break them.
Taylor Mays, S
Following a new one-year deal with the team and having taken steps forward in 2013, it is unlikely the Bengals want to give up on Taylor Mays, especially because they're only on the hook for him for one season.
Mays looked more like a solid NFL safety, putting up comparable numbers in eight games last season to what he did in 16 games in 2012. His size and athleticism make him a solid option performing in the nickel formation.
A year ago at this time, I was praying the team would send Mays away for good, never to be seen in a Bengals uniform again, but he stepped up his game in 2013. It also helps his situation that sophomore Shawn Williams, the Bengals' 2013 third-round pick, was very limited in his play last season.
It appears that will be Mays' biggest competition, along with undrafted free agent Isaiah Lewis. George Iloka, Danieal Manning, and Reggie Nelson are all locks to be on the roster barring any sort of injury.
If Mays can continue to progress between the ears, he can steadily become one of the most dangerous safeties in the league. His athleticism along with an understanding of the field would be a deadly combination.
However, being outplayed in the preseason by Williams or Lewis could be deadly.
Rey Maualuga, LB
Following an absolutely disastrous performance against the Houston Texans in the 2012-13 playoffs, it seemed like a foregone conclusion Rey Maualuga would be exiled from Cincinnati. However, the team brought him back, but he very well could be in trouble this season again.
I didn't truly consider this a possibility until Rocky Boiman, a former NFL-athlete-turned-correspondent and broadcaster, said on Mo Egger's show on ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati he thinks Maualuga will be cut by the time Week 1 rolls around. Boiman has been giving updates from training camp since it began.
It isn't completely out of the question Maualuga is sent packing, and most of that has to do with the success of Vincent Rey last season. Rey burst onto the scene with a season that put his name on the grid, collecting four sacks, two picks (one pick-six) and 57 tackles.
For now, Rey is continuing to be the backup option but how long will that last? Even before considering performances, the Bengals will take a $2.1 million cap hit on Rey, as opposed to a cap hit just under $4 million for Maualuga (per Spotrac.com).
Of the guys on this list, he may be the most unlikely to ultimately bite the dust, but it will be interesting to see how this battle shapes up going forward. Rey has quickly become a fan favorite in the Queen City and he'll be expected to see plenty of action, so where does that leave Maualuga?
Brandon Tate, WR
Two years ago, Brandon Tate was competing with then-Bengal Armon Binns to be the team's No. 2 receiver opposite A.J. Green. Oh, how ridiculous of an idea that turned out to be.
He's caught a total of 14 passes in the past two seasons. There's a reason his career as a receiver hasn't worked out. It is also worth pointing out even though he specializes on special teams, his services aren't truly needed there either.
Adam Jones has his own history on special teams, and guys like Gio Bernard and Dane Sanzenbacher can make their respective impacts as well. At this point, the Bengals seem to have added a slew of young receivers capable of overtaking Tate.
A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu are certain to be on the 53-man roster. That leaves (at most) three spots for additional receivers, two of which are probably for Sanzenbacher and Cobi Hamilton. Then there's Tate, Ryan Whalen and rookie James Wright.
In this situation, it's probably best to go with the youth in Wright, who played mainly on special teams at LSU. You'd essentially be replacing Tate with a younger version of himself.
Robert Geathers, DE
The thing I love about Robert Geathers is he is entering his 11th season in the NFL and has spent every single one of them in the Queen City. It isn't often you see guys last that long with the same team anymore.
Geathers missed most of the 2013 season with an elbow injury which came on the heels of him having received another extension with the team. This season, Geathers—who suddenly has plenty of playing time competition even without Michael Johnson—is due to pull in a base salary of $2.5 million (per Spotrac.com).
That seems like a hefty number for a guy whose last respectable season came in 2009 when he posted 36 tackles, 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. What a lot of Cincinnati fans enjoy remembering about Geathers is his 2006 campaign when he put up 10.5 sacks and completely obliterated Trent Green on one of the more recent memorable NFL hits—a hit he'd likely be crucified for in the 2014 NFL.
Now, Geathers' career seems to be on the downswing. His contract expires after next season, and if he makes it that far, it'd certainly be the end of his Cincinnati career. That may be hanging in the balance even now, as Carlos Dunlap already has a lock on the starting right end, while the names circling around left end are Margus Hunt, Wallace Gilberry, and Will Clarke.
That doesn't even include the possibility of Sam Montgomery and Dontay Moch making the roster, both of whom could also see playing time. It may not be likely Geathers is cut loose, but it has to be at least a possibility.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB
I can't help but feel a little bad for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. His numbers in Cincinnati haven't exactly been Pro Bowl-caliber or even worthy of being considered a top-20 running back, but he also never really did anything so bad that he should lose his spot on the roster. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the NFL.
Per Spotrac.com, Green-Ellis is slated to account for a $3 million cap hit for the Bengals in 2014, and based on training camps that have largely featured Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, that would be money spent on a third-string back. I'm all for a quality corps of running backs, but does he bring so much more as a third-string than Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead, or James Wilder Jr. could?
Green-Ellis put up a pitiful 756 yards in 2014 and averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. The once-sure-handed back has also had his fair share of fumbling problems in Cincinnati, having coughed the ball up five times in two seasons. To compare, he didn't fumble the ball once in four years as a Patriot.
Now that the aforementioned Hill and Bernard seem to have taken the reins, it seems nothing short of silly for the Bengals to keep the six-year veteran on the books. Does he have the talent?
To be one of the two backs as part of a duo? Absolutely. To be the featured back? It doesn't appear so.
Green-Ellis may be kept as trade bait which may be a good strategy, but the Bengals would still continue to pay him. It may not be a risk worth taking at this point.