Bengals begin cuts with five, roster at 81

CINCINNATI -- The great purging of players from the Cincinnati Bengals' roster has begun.

On Monday afternoon, the team announced it had waived four players and terminated the contract of another in an attempt to start getting the roster a little closer to Tuesday's 75-man limit, as stipulated by NFL rules. By Saturday, that roster will be trimmed all the way to 53. Currently, the Bengals sit at 81.

The five cuts announced Monday were defensive tackle Larry Black, safety Isaiah Lewis, kicker Quinn Sharp, receiver Ryan Whalen and cornerback R.J. Stanford. As the veteran of the group who had been signed out of free agency this offseason, Stanford was the only one of the five whose contract was terminated. He automatically becomes eligible for free agency while the others must first clear waivers before getting picked up.

None of the cuts ought to be viewed as surprises. Each of the five were left off our latest 53-man roster projection that was published Monday, even if some of them had shown flashes of good play throughout the preseason.

Black's departure will be disappointing to many locally who primarily remember the Cincinnati native for his brief appearance on last year's HBO "Hard Knocks." Lauded by coaches all of last training camp, Black's season came to an immediate halt when he suffered a serious ankle injury in a camp practice. The entire sequence, including Black's emotional phone call with his family after receiving the season-ending diagnosis in the training room, was shown on the show's opening episode. Black had returned this preseason hoping to build on the quality play he had showcased just before the injury.

He was unsuccessful, though. Black didn't appear in Sunday night's Week 3 preseason game at Arizona despite not being listed on the pregame not-expected-to-dress list.

Lewis was an undrafted rookie free agent from Michigan State. The safety had trouble standing out in a crowded secondary. The same went for Stanford, who was a bubble cornerback at best. He did himself no favors Sunday night when he was burned by speedster John Brown on a 30-yard touchdown pass that went down as the Cardinals' only touchdown of the game. The play before, Stanford had been called for defensive pass interference on a pass that sailed well over his and Brown's heads.

Whalen was a sixth-round 2011 draft pick of the Bengals, but he never really clicked. His most prolific season was 2012 when he appeared in a career-high nine games and caught a career-high seven passes. He came into this camp with an injury and, as expected, had difficulty cracking a crowded receivers' room.

Sharp was expected to be cut when he was signed in the offseason. He was added specifically so the Bengals could enter training camp with multiple kickers, in an effort of keeping Mike Nugent's leg fresh throughout the summer. Sharp's strong leg -- he had two field goals on two tries Sunday night, including a 51-yarder -- could make him a highly sought after kicker entering next week's openers.