In a move that had been widely anticipated in the next 10 days, the Bengals on Tuesday terminated the contract of veteran Josh Johnson to set up a final 53-man roster of two quarterbacks.
On Monday night AJ McCarron made his NFL debut and Tuesday he unofficially became starting quarterback Andy Dalton's backup with Johnson's release. After a slow start in the second half, McCarron led the Bengals to their only touchdown on an 80-yard hurry-up drive he completed eight of 10 passes for 66 yards during a 25-11 loss in Tampa.
Johnson, who backed up Dalton in 2013, played in the pre-season opener when McCarron was sidelined with pulled muscles in his rib cage and went 11-for-21 for 175 yards passing while rushing for 37 yards in the 23-10 victory over the Giants. The other quarterback on the roster, first-year player Keith Wenning out of Ball State, is angling for a spot on the practice squad.
The Bengals also on Tuesday cut two undrafted free agents in safety Erick Dargan of Oregon and defensive tackle Kalafitoni Pole of Washington State. Pole made his debut Monday night with six snaps and wasn't credited with a tackle after not playing in the pre-season opener. Dargan had two tackles in nine snaps against the Bucs.
The Bengals are now down to 87 players for Saturday's game against the Bears (7:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) and have to get to 75 by Sept. 1. They have to make their final cuts to 53 by Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. The pre-season finale is set for Sept. 3 in Indianapolis.