If the Bengals were going to swing a trade before Tuesday's deadline, it would have been for depth. On Thursday they made two significant moves to beef up the roster without giving up anything.
They claimed on waivers Vernon Hargreaves III, a 26-year-old former first-round cornerback cut by the struggling Houston Texans on Wednesday, and activated offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji from injured reserve. Released to make room were a pair of rookies, pass rusher Darius Hodge and cornerback Nick McCloud.
Hargreaves, a 2016 first-round pick of the hometown Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., sounded delighted to get a shot with the 5-3 Bengals.
"Of course. That losing stuff was not for me, I'm not going to lie," Hargreaves said. "I'm excited to get in there."
The 5-10, 204-pound Hargreaves is what the Bengals had in mind at this juncture in the season. He's got experience (57 starts), some skins on the wall (four career interceptions and a pick-six) and pedigree as the 11th pick in the draft out of Florida.
The move comes three weeks after the Bengals claimed another veteran cornerback in Seattle's Tre Flowers and his 43 starts, three of them in the playoffs.
The Bengals are stockpiling first-round cornerbacks again, a trait of their playoff runs in the previous decade. Eli Apple, drafted a slot ahead of Hargreaves by the Giants, has started all but one game in placed of the injured Trae Waynes, drafted by the Vikings with the 11th pick in 2015.
Hargreaves, claimed by the Texans after the Bucs cut him nearly two years to the day Thursday, had five starts with the Texans this season. He says he doesn't know much about the Bengals.
"I know Vonn Bell and Eli, but that's pretty much it. I'm 100 percent ready to go," said Hargreaves, scheduled to arrive not much before midnight for Friday morning's practice.
Adeniji, whose quick feet put him on a fast track after they drafted him in the sixth round of the 2020 draft, started at both tackle spots last season, three games on the left side and one on the right.
Before he injured his pectoral muscle in the days leading up to training camp, Adeniji had been projected to compete at guard in a chance to show off his versatility. The Bengals have already stated three right guards this season and Opening Day starter Xavier Su'a-Filo (knee) is on injured reserve. Second-rounder Jackson Carman, who has made five of the starts, has gone full the two days of practice this week after suffering an injury during the final series of last Sunday's game.
"I think that versatility has served him well," said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan of Adeniji. "He's got the strength to play inside. He's got the athleticism to play on the edge. He's a guy that we were really excited about his trajectory at the end of (last) year and going into the offseason, hopeful that we could see what it looked like ... He missed a lot of time with (offensive line coach) Frank (Pollack), technically. So, he's getting caught up to speed (with his technique). The scheme's not unfamiliar so it's not new but he's done a good job so far. I like a lot of things about him. He can play either one well enough to play in this league. There's some value in having guys that can do that."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Chidobe Awuzie, the Bengals' other starting cornerback who is rated 17th by Pro Football Focus, wasn't surprised that Jets quarterback Mike White beat him with two perfect sideline routes in the end zone during White's first NFL start in the Bengals' 34-31 loss. One counted and one was wiped out by penalty and that kind of accuracy had been on display in the Cowboys' workouts White participated in with Awuzie before getting cut and ending up with the Jets.
"I knew he could make those throws," Awuzie said. "I'm secretly rooting for him but when I play against him, definitely not rooting for him. But yeah, I knew he could make those throws, make those plays. Coming into that game, this might make headlines, I thought he could play as good as the quarterback they have, Zach Wilson, or better. I think Mike White's a great player and rooting for him the rest of the way."
Callahan pretty much had only one beef with his guys in in New York. The struggle in the red zone, where they were five times, but got just three points on two of the trips. This is how good they were coming in. They fell to fifth in red zone TD percentage despite going 3-for-5. On the foray they settled for a field goal, Callahan confirmed the third-down throw that got quarterback Joe Burrow heated when it sailed past the open Tyler Boyd was the result of miscommunication with Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah standing almost next to each other.
"C.J. ended up in a spot that TB wasn't expecting," Callahan said. "You can see him kind of pause and pull back because he wasn't sure where C.J. was at. So, miscommunication on that part. I thought we had a chance to score on that play if we ran that and executed it the way we were capable of doing it. That one was disappointing, for sure.
Callahan is still talking this week to his dad, Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan, like it's a normal week.
"I texted him last night," Callahan said. "We don't talk football. I sent him pictures of my kids in their Halloween costumes. That was our conversation.
Wide receiver Auden Tate (thigh) and running back Chris Evans (hamstring) remained limited Thursday. Center Trey Hopkins (knee) and edge Cam Sample (knee) returned limited.