The Cincinnati Bengals announced the signings of 10 undrafted college free agents on Monday, including two former Michigan State teammates of first-round pick Darqueze Dennard and a running back who helped lead Florida State to the BCS National Championship.
James Wilder (6-foot-3, 232 pounds) gives the Bengals another big, powerful option at running back. He rushed for 7.0 yards per carry last year as a junior, gaining 583 yards on 81 attempts.
The Bengals also signed a pair of fullbacks — Ryan Hewitt (6-4, 246), a tight end/fullback hybrid from Stanford and Nikita Whitlock (5-10, 251), who played defensive tackle at Wake Forest.
Also on the list are a pair of former Michigan State Spartans — guard Dan France (6-5, 300) and safety Isaiah Lewis (5-10, 211).
The other five UFAs are Texas-El Paso linebacker James Davidson (6-3 242), West Virginia offensive tackle Curtis Feigt (6-6, 307), Texas guard Trey Hopkins (6-3, 307), San Diego State wide receiver Colin Lockett (5-11, 188) and Buffalo wide receiver Alex Neutz (6-3, 214).
Johnson released: The Bengals released backup quarterback Josh Johnson on Monday. Johnson appeared in two games last year and did not attempt a pass.
The move was expected after the team signed veteran quarterback Jason Campbell in March to backup starter Andy Dalton and then drafted Alabama quarterack A.J. McCarron in the fifth round of last weekend’s draft.
Spring schedule: The draft picks started arriving Saturday, followed by the flood of undrafted free agents. They will get a chance to meet the coaches and teammates while taking part in the voluntary workout program.
The first official work begins May 27-29 with the start of OTAs (Organized Team Activities). Another round of OTAs will take place June 3-5, followed by the mandatory mini camp June 10-12 and the final set of OTAs June 16-19.
The players will reconvene for the start of training camp July 23.
Local connections: The New York Giants paid close attention to Southwest Ohio, agreeing to terms with Northmont High and Ohio State safety CJ Barnett and Miami University defensive tackle Austin Brown while also inviting quarterback DJ Mendenhall (Urbana) for a tryout.
Miami University defensive back Dayonne Nunley signed a UFA deal with San Diego, and Hamilton High graduate Denicos Allen, a linebacker from Michigan State, is headed to the Carolina Panthers, where he will join former Big Blue teammate and offensive tackle Phillip Manley.
While not every team has officially released its list of UFAs, there are reports of numerous other players from area schools signing on for a chance to play in the NFL.
Ohio State — Kicker Drew Basil (Atlanta), wide receiver Corey Brown (Carolina), guard Marcus Hall (Indianapolis); Cincinnati — linebacker Greg Blair (Cleveland), guard Andre Cureton (Dallas), wide receiver Anthony McClung (Houston), tight end Blake Annen (Philadelphia) and quarterback Brendon Kay (Pittsburgh).