The first draft of the deepest Bengals roster in recent memory has the best of both worlds with an intact core and an average age a year younger than last year's team that went to the AFC title game for the second straight season.
They not only went younger, compared to last year's Opening Day roster, but they remained heavy at the heavy positions. While opting to keep six wide receivers and six cornerbacks, they put ten linemen on each side of the ball.
And, right tackle La'el Collins, last year's Opening Day starter rehabbing from ACL surgery, went to the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and isn't eligible for the first four games.
As the Bengals begin their bid to become the first team to win three straight AFC North titles in the 22 seasons of the division, their initial cut to a 53-man roster left them with one 30-year-old (center Ted Karras) and all eight draft picks that included 21-year-old first-rounder Myles Murphy.
Their average age of 25.415 years is younger than the NFL's youngest Opening Day roster last year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Browns averaged 25.603.
But it wasn't without some losses of familiar faces from this two-year run the Bengals have gone 5-2 in the playoffs.
Incumbent special teams captain Mike Thomas, who had an idea this day was coming when he gave his No. 31 jersey to Tycen Anderson after Saturday's preseason finale in Washington, was terminated as a vested veteran. So were two other special teams staples from the wide receiver corps in gunner and core teamer Stanley Morgan Jr. and punt returner Trent Taylor.
Thomas said he's willing to return to the practice squad, a 16-player unit to be announced Wednesday a few hours before they return to practice. And he very well may since he's a vested veteran, which means he's a free agent and not subject to waiver claims.
Joining Thomas, Morgan, and Taylor as terminated veterans is quarterback Trevor Siemian after Jake Browning won the No. 2 job backing up Joe Burrow. Siemian may also be offered a practice squad position. Up to six vested veterans can be on the squad. Cornerback Sidney Jones IV and tight end Tanner Hudson are also among the vets cut.
In the 2020s, the Bengals have had only one draft pick not make the initial 53-man roster when 2021 seventh-rounder Wyatt Hubert, a defensive end from Kansas State, went to the non-football injury list.
This year the picks not only made it, but they have a significant impact on the makeup of special teams.
Sixth-rounder Brad Robbins won the punting job, a position manned last Opening Day by 37-year-old Kevin Huber. Fourth-rounder Charlie Jones, a wide receiver from Purdue, is replacing Taylor as the punt returner.
Two rookie cornerbacks, second-rounder DJ Turner and seventh-rounder DJ Ivey, are also going to be active on game day and called upon in the kicking game. So is sixth-rounder Andrei Iosivas, the Princeton wide receiver and Bengals leading receiver during the preseason.
Third-rounder Jordan Battle and Tycen Anderson, the second-year player who beat out Thomas for the fourth safety spot, are the backup safeties expected to make their NFL debuts in the Sept. 10 opener in Cleveland as core special teamers.
No undrafted free agent rookie made it, but some are expected to surface on the practice squad.
And one of Tuesday's best stories is a former undrafted free agent making it. Browning, who signed out of Washington in 2019 with the Vikings, is on his first Opening Day roster after practice squad stints in Minnesota and Cincinnati.
According to Elias, the Bengals have their youngest Opening Day roster (give or take some decimal points if they tweak it) in the Burrow Era to reflect the changing economics of their core.
Last year they had the NFL's 18th youngest Opening Day roster at 26.477. When they went to the Super Bowl in 2021, it was 26.126, sixth youngest. When Burrow was a rookie in 2020, they were the 12th youngest on Opening Day with an average age of 26.273.
The drop to under 26 years old can be traced to moving on from their two oldest players, Huber and 38-year-old long snapper Clark Harris, as well as Thomas, the two rookie cornerbacks in lieu of Eli Apple and Tre Flowers, and a remade safety position to replace veterans Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell.
Joe Burrow (4), Jake Browning (1)
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Tyler Boyd (8), Tee Higgins (4), Trenton Irwin (4), Ja'Marr Chase (3), Charlie Jones (R), Andrei Iosivas (R)
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Joe Mixon (7), Trayveon Williams (5), Chris Evans (3), Chase Brown (R)
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Drew Sample (5), Irv Smith Jr. (5), Mitchell Wilcox (4)
OFFENSIVE LINE (10)
C Ted Karras (8), LG Alex Cappa (6), LT Orlando Brown (6), G-T Cody Ford (5), G-C Max Scharping (5), T Jonah Williams (5), G-T Jackson Carman (3), C-G Trey Hill (3), T D'Ante Smith (3), LG Cordell Volson (2)
DEFENSIVE LINE (10)
NT DJ Reader (8), E Trey Hendrickson (7), T B.J. Hill (6), E Sam Hubbard (6), NT Josh Tupou (6), E-T Cam Sample (3), E-T Joseph Ossai (3), T Jay Tufele (3), T Zach Carter (2), E Myles Murphy (R)
Germaine Pratt (5), Joe Bachie (4), Markus Bailey (4), Akeem Davis-Gaither (4), Logan Wilson (4)
CB Chidobe Awuzie (7), CB Mike Hilton (7), S Nick Scott (5), CB Jalen Davis (4), S Tycen Anderson (2), S Dax Hill (2), CB Cam Taylor-Britt (2), S Jordan Battle (R), CB DJ Turner II (R), CB DJ Ivey (R)
K Evan McPherson (3), LS Cal Adomitis (2), P Brad Robbins (R)
See which players made it to the 53 man roster for the 2023 season.