Updated Look at Bengals’ Off-Season Signings


Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Montgomery (70) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ 2014 season has ended and after falling short in the playoffs once more, the team must find a way to improve the roster in an effort to finally find success in the playoffs.  The Bengals have begun to assemble their 90-man roster for this year’s training camp. Here’s an updated look at the Bengals moves thus far this off-season.

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Of this group, Kevin Brock is the only one who signed a contract larger than a “reserve/future” deal, which essentially secures a player for the off-season at a minimum level.  Brock’s one-year deal secures the Bengals some depth at the tight end position.  Tyler Eifert is looking to return after a lost year due to elbow and shoulder injuries while Jermaine Gresham‘s retention is far from a lock.  The team very well may be moving on from him and relying more on Ryan Hewitt as a tight end in the coming year.

But Brock isn’t the only player amongst the off-season signings that could intrigue the Bengals in the coming year.  Here are some quick hits regarding players amongst this group who could make a splash in 2015.

Sam Montgomery

The former third round selection has struggled to get his career off the ground.  He was involved in a strange situation in Houston that supposedly involved marijuana, though he tested negative just days later.  Regardless of what happened, Montgomery clearly did something to show he was taking his career less than seriously as it’s rare a team would cut such a highly drafted player so quickly.

This year could be the best opportunity Montgomery has found since blowing his Houston opportunity.  The Bengals really struggled with rushing the passer this past year and will be looking for help.  Both Margus Hunt and Will Clarke haven’t proven themselves as effective yet and Robert Geathers could be a cap casualty this year.

There could be a slot open along the line even if the Bengals draft another end in the upcoming draft.  If Montgomery commits himself to football in an effort to reclaim the promise he once displayed, he could find himself on the roster at the start of the year.

Shiloh Keo

Keo is another Texans wash out.  He was cut by the Texans earlier this year, but now lands with the Bengals reunifying with his former secondary coach Vance Joseph.

Aug 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans free safety Shiloh Keo (31) during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As a safety with much special teams experience, Keo could have a shot to earn a spot if the Bengals chose to avoid selecting a safety in the coming draft.  Although Reggie Nelson will be a free agent following the upcoming season, the Bengals have been grooming Shawn Williams for a few years now.  He’s played especially well on special teams and may take over for Nelson once his contract runs out.

Generally, Taylor Mays is carried as the team’s fourth safety, but he’s a free agent this year.  The Bengals would be intelligent to re-sign Mays, but make him a full-time linebacker in 2015.  He’s shown a great penchant as a coverage/nickel linebacker, and is built to deal with today’s tight ends.  Having someone like him amongst the linebacking ranks would be an excellent idea.

If this happens, a spot for Keo is not out of the question.  Keo also has starting experience from his time in Houston after the Ed Reed experiment flamed out rather quickly.  He could make an excellent fourth safety for the Bengals in 2015.

James Wilder, Jr.

With the Bengals moving towards a run-heavy approach on offense, having another thumper on the roster certainly wouldn’t hurt.  Wilder fits that role as he displayed great tackle-breaking ability during his time on Florida State’s national championship team.  Wilder could spell Jeremy Hill at times during short-yardage situations, which could also keep Giovani Bernard away from these taxing hits.

After being a much-heralded UDFA signing after the 2014 draft, Wilder found himself unable to make the roster due to a crowded backfield and an inability to be effective on special teams.  After spending the year on the practice squad, it’s entirely possible that he’s improved his game in several ways.  Yet, Wilder won’t find a much better situation this coming year.

The Bengals will still have Hill and Bernard as roster locks while one must assume that the versatile Rex Burkhead will also be on the 53-man roster come September.  The question is whether or not the Bengals will retain free agent Cedric Peerman.  Peerman hasn’t proven to be an excellent runner, but has spelled lead runners well.  What he does do well is special teams.  Peerman has been the captain of the unit for the last three years and led the league in special teams tackles this year according to Pro Football Focus.

If Wilder wants to make this team, he’s going to have to work pretty hard.  It’s not impossible, but he will likely need help from an outside factor that cause Peerman to move on from the team.

Onterio McCalebb

McCalebb was signed after the 2013 draft as an undrafted free agent.  Dubbed too small and slight to be an NFL running back, the Bengals chose to train him as a cornerback much in the way former Bengal Ken Riley did on his way to a Hall of Fame worthy career; McCalebb has actually trained with Riley since becoming a Bengal.  And though McCalebb’s progress has been slow yet steady, he’s feeling more confident in himself as time goes.

McCalebb may find himself in a favorable position this year as veteran cornerback Terence Newman is a free agent and will likely be moving on from Cincinnati.  More than this, if the Bengals don’t re-sign free agent return specialist/wide receiver Brandon Tate, some returning duties could be opening up also.  As a former returner for Auburn, McCalebb has experience and ability in this role as well.

The Bengals could very well be looking for cornerback depth this year with only four signed as of now: Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darqueze Dennard.  The Bengals do have the option of signing Chris Lewis-Harris to a minimum deal, as he’s an ERFA this year, which would give them a capable fifth corner.

If McCalebb proves he’s developed over the past couple of years, his ability as a defender, returner, and possibly an offensive weapon could prove useful to the Bengals.  This year could be his “make or break” year, so if he were ever going to make some waves, this would be the year for Onterio McCalebb to do so.

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