CINCINNATI -- Two more jobs just came open for the Cincinnati Bengals.
On Tuesday afternoon the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to expand practice squad rosters for this season and next season from eight players to 10. Though the 53-man roster remains unchanged and still holds the highest value, the Bengals and every other team now have space to keep additional players when the preseason officially ends.
Practice squad eligibility also was tweaked under the new agreement. In order to qualify for accruing a practice squad season, a player must have a minimum of six games on the practice squad instead of three games, extending the amount of playing time a player can have and still be eligible for the practice squad.
Additionally, teams are now permitted to sign a maximum of two practice squad players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free-agency credit. Absent that exception, a player who has earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for a practice squad unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a team's 46-player active list in each of his accrued seasons. That means third-year players could qualify for the practice squad.
Here are 10 Bengals I'd consider for the practice squad:
QB Matt Scott
It seems evident the Bengals are trying to put AJ McCarron on an injury-list to keep him off the practice squad where he could be claimed by another team. If that is the case, and the Bengals enter the season with just two quarterbacks -- Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell -- I could see them keeping a third who could be called off the practice squad.
The Bengals view Wilder as a project right now with physical tools any team would love to use. He won't make the 53-man roster, but I expect the Bengals to keep him around this way.
Lockett has so many special teams intangibles as a returner and special teamer that the Bengals have reasons to keep him around and evaluate him further. He won't make the 53-man roster because of the depth at receiver, but he could be a solid addition to help the defense prepare this season for speedy and shifty slot receivers like former Bengal Andrew Hawkins.
Cincinnati didn't enter this season with plans of putting Hamilton on practice squad for a second-straight season, but his play has warranted it. He has not dominated the position battle he is in with James Wright and Ryan Whalen, among others. Consistency and drops have been the issue. When he has looked good, though, he has looked really good. He will be beaten out for a job on the 53-man roster, but should still be part of the club.
OL Trey Hopkins
I've still got Hopkins pegged as a bubble player, but I'm thinking he ultimately makes the 53-man roster. He has too many intangibles as an undrafted rookie to be put on the practice squad, but in the event there isn't enough room for him on the 53-man, he could go here.
DE Will Clarke
Like Hopkins, I believe Clarke ends up making the 53-man roster, but in the event the Bengals want to eat one of their defensive line positions to open up an opportunity elsewhere on the roster, I could see Clarke going to the practice squad. He could be like McCarron, though, in the sense that you don't want someone poaching the talented rookie away.
The Bengals liked the young and little-known Ross enough to sign him, so I'm not expecting him to get cut this year. He's a completely raw and unpolished product who had FBS offers, but ended up at tiny Virginia-Lynchburg, where he used his size to completely overpower opposing offensive lines. He only had one college season, so a year on the practice squad could benefit him.
You haven't heard much about Davidson from camp, but he's been a fairly consistent contributor on special teams and defense. He also has been receptive to coaching from both coaches and his teammates. If he survives waivers, the undrafted rookie could end up here.
Lewis-Harris has had a fairly impressive preseason, even after getting suspended during it for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He will be unavailable for the first two regular-season games, but still can be on the overall roster. He would be one of those third-year eligible players. A crowded cornerback room might land him back on the practice squad.
This final spot was a tough determination. It came down to choosing Westbrooks over Isaiah Lewis, the undrafted rookie safety from Michigan State. It seems to me that Westbrooks has had a better preseason. Still, the Bengals might want a safety instead of two cornerbacks, making Lewis would be a better fit for the practice squad.