Welcome to the Bengals 2022 supplemental draft.
They held it quietly Tuesday evening in the player personnel wing of Paycor Stadium as head coach Zac Taylor joined director of player personnel Duke Tobin and his staff to sift through the mountain that is the waiver wire.
Despite picking No. 31 in the claim process befitting the AFC champs, the Bengals attacked the bottom of their roster and emerged with three players drafted no later than 106 (Jags defensive tackle Jay Tufele in 2021) and as high as 55 (Texans guard Max Scharping in 2019) in three of the last four drafts. In 2020, Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi went No. 91, between the Bengals' prized linebackers, Logan Wilson at 65 and Akeem Davis-Gaither at 107.
The Bengals were surprised they got three of the claims and when Asiasi came through, that may have taken them out of the O.J. Howard discussion.
Injuries and salary probably played a role for the newest Bengals to last that long. Tufele played just four games and 13 snaps as a rookie. He was slated to play in the sixth game but hurt his hand in pregame and needed surgery. Asiasi could get on the field for just ten games and 225 snaps in his two seasons. Scharping started 11 games for a Texans offensive line rated 29th by Pro Football Focus and he's set to make $2.5 million this year.
But he's also started 33 games, has more than 2,000 snaps and has got some talent the Bengals think they may be able to use up front. Head coach Zac Taylor said it best on a day he named fourth-rounder Cordell Volson the starting left guard and said they're still counting on 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman to provide depth there.
"We're always looking for help on our offensive line," Taylor said. "Max Scharping becomes available and he's a guy we liked so we had an opportunity there.
"We're not asking these guys to be a starter for us. We're asking them to potentially play a role or even be inactive and develop over time. Those three guys are what we want to be about. We won't make any projections on what's going to happen the first week or two with them. We'll see once we get our hands on them. We'll see how quickly they can assimilate to our group. We're adding all three for a reason because they can help our team in a way, shape or form."
It's certainly an aggressive move financially because they picked up three contracts of draft picks. What they like about Asiasi ($1 million) and Tufele ($825,000) is they not only know them through the draft process, but they've got more than a year left on their deals.
It comes down to you've got your own waiver wire, no one else's. Like with Tufele, a 6-3, 305-pound run stuffer in a division where two of the NFL's top rushing teams, Baltimore and Cleveland, live.
"For us these three hit positions where we felt like we could help ourselves," Taylor said. "We only carried four D tackles, that's pretty rare for us, so now we've found that fifth D tackle."
The three probably won't be active for the Sept. 11 opener against the Steelers, but they'll have time to show their wares and they'd probably like to get Asiasi ready since it looks like they're down to two tight ends with Drew Sample just coming back from a knee sprain and Mitchell Wilcox (foot) figuring to go on injured reserve.
The 6-3, 257-pound Asiasi is a big man, a blocker the Bengals were seeking at that spot. While Howard is more of a receiver and would have had a role, Asiasi brings a different brand that tight ends coach James Casey thinks is also valuable.
"The things we need these guys to do and be really good at is they need to be really smart and they need to be able to block really well," Casey said after Wednesday's practice. "That stuff matters in what we do. We have to block those defensive ends. We've got to pass protect. They have to know every concept in the pass game."
Casey scouted Asiasi before his draft and loves his size and how physical he is at the point of attack. Just two catches for 39 yards in the league aren't factors.
"He's a young player who's got ability and talent. Still a little bit inexperienced, but watching him on film, he can block the tight end," Casey said. "It's not like (C.J.) Uzomah is a super flashy guy, but he's making eight million because he's smart and can block … The guys you can trust to block are really valuable and you look at it, there's something like 15 tight ends drafted, there's not a lot of guys out there."
TALE OF TWO PLAYERS: When it comes to the cuts, there is the joy of undrafted rookie cornerback Allan George and the disappointment of first-year punter Drue Chrisman.
Chrisman lost a brutally close duel to Kevin Huber and although he's at the same locker, he's back on the practice squad hoping.
"I went out there, did my best and put it in their hands and that's all I could really ask for," Chrisman said Wednesday.
Chrisman said the news didn't surprise him. He thought it could go either way ("I knew coming in that could happen") and he said he wasn't aware of any interest from around the league.
"I let my agent handle that," he said. "I'm grateful I could get another opportunity to be on the practice squad and I'm hoping I continue to get better … The good thing is the difference between last year and this year is I have film."
Chrisman and George have a lot in common except a roster spot. They both came in undrafted (George Vanderbilt and Chrisman Ohio State) and both had high-profile engagements to their wives in a college football setting.
George's wife, Katlyn, has been working in Nashville as a health care consultant, but she can work remotely and drove up for last Saturday's preseason finale and waited out the cuts with her husband in a downtown hotel.
"I was hoping and praying and stressing as any undrafted rookie would," George said. "I think I got two to three hours of sleep over two days. When (Taylor) called, I said about six words. I was so shocked."
Taylor started the call at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday with "AG, we have news." George thought, oh no, bad news. But Taylor said, "No, it's great news." And George thought, here it is, and then Taylor began talking about how incredible it is for an undrafted rookie to make it the first time through. Somewhere in there he uttered the six words before he and Katlyn jumped on the bed for about 20 minutes. He texted his father and told him he'd call when he could and made sure he got a hold of his buddies in Andalusia. Ala.
"We've got a friend group back home. We're super, super close. About 12 or 13 people," George said. "We've known each other since we were eight or nine and I wanted them to know before anybody else."
The reason George went to Vandy is he thought it would set him up for life after football. He got his degree in medicine, health and society, but he wasn't thinking about any backup plans waiting for the call.
"I was hoping I had enough on tape for the other teams," George said. "I was content either way. But I told my wife and teammates, I wanted to stay in Cincinnati. There's nothing like your first place in anything. It's like your first elementary school."