AFC championship finals: roster, Cincinnati Bengals starters by position
Cincy boast a young core to their roster - 29 players were not drafted and just 11 were signed as college free agents.
The Cincinnati Bengals have had to wait a long time for this moment - last week they won their first playoff game in 31 years and later today they will contest the AFC title for the first time since 1988. The Kansas City Chiefs stand in the way of a place at the Super Bowl - in what would be their third appearance. Their last, in the XXIII edition in January 1989, ended in a 20-16 defeat to the 49ers. The Bengals and the New York Giants are the only teams in NFL history to have won every conference final they've ever played in.
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At first glance, it might appear that the Bengals’ return to the postseason has been down to heavy investment in strengthening in the right areas. But nothing could be further from the truth. The backbone of the team is made up of young players brought in as free agents in a shrewd and meticulously planned, long-term recruitment program.
The Bengals list 53 players on the active roster, of which almost half arrived at Paul Brown Stadium through recruitment. That has enabled them to be the team with the most cap space of everyone competing in the 2021 playoffs - 48.7M. It should be noted that several of the players they selected in the draft, such as Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader for instance, are seasoned campaigners with years of experience playing in NFL - only three came during the first round.
Bengals roster: value and shrewd planning
However, Cincy have invested in their offensive line. Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow are first-round picks, and Joe Mixon joined in the second round of the draft. The other part of the Bengals roster (29 players) was constructed in a peculiar way. Just 10 players came via free agency, while eight of them were signings made during Zac Taylor's tenure - moves that were made primarily made to tighten the defense.
|Offensive positions||Defensive positions||Special teams|
|QB||Joe Burrow||LDE||Sam Hubbard||K||Evan McPherson|
|RB||Joe Mixon||LDT||D.J. Reader||P||Kevin Huber|
|WR||Ja'Marr Chase||RDT||B.J. Hill||PR||Trent Taylor|
|FB||Kyle Juszczyk||RDE||Trey Hendrickson||KR||Chris Evans|
|TE||C.J. Uzomah||SLB||Markus Bailey||LS||Clark Harris|
|LT||Jonah Williams||MLB||Germaine Pratt||H||Kevin Huber|
|LG||Quinton Spain||WLB||Logan Wilson|
|C||Trey Hopkins||LCB||Eli Apple|
|RG||Hakeem Adeniji||SS||Vonn Bell|
|RT||Isaiah Prince||FS||Jessie Bates|
What is unique about Cincinnati's roster is that 11 of the players who will see action in Kansas City were undrafted rookies, seven were signed by other clubs and four more have moved between the active roster and the practice squad. As if that wasn't enough, seven players were claimed off waivers and only one, RTD B.J. Hill, arrived via trade - he joined from the New York Giants in exchange for Billy Price.