The Bengals signed the former Vikings first-round draft pick to a three-year deal worth $42 million and he was expected to serve as the team’s starting left cornerback, replacing Dre Kirkpatrick, who was released this offseason.
“It just happened this week,” Taylor said during an online video news conference Tuesday afternoon. “It is unfortunate. Those guys have been working hard since they’ve been in the building. It’s just an unfortunate situation. These things happen during training camp. I’m excited to get him healthy and back on the field for us.”
The Bengals have 79 players on their roster, which is allowed to max out at 80, but seemingly enough options at cornerback to replace Waynes. That extra spot will be used to sign former Lions’ and Packers’ Pro Bowl defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who visited with the team Sunday and who Taylor confirmed will be announced to the roster soon.
Daniels will add to an impressive defensive line that includes D.J. Reader and Geno Atkins but was lacking some depth after Josh Tupou opted out of the season.
Taylor declined to go into detail about how the injury to Waynes occurred, but said he feels better prepared to handle it than he would have last year when he was still getting to know the players and unsure what kind of depth the Bengals had there.
Cincinnati has more options this year, despite also letting cornerback Darqueze Dennard go in free agency and releasing B.W. Webb. Darius Phillips showed some potential at the end of last season, Taylor noted, and the Bengals added through free agency former Vikings slot corner Mackensie Alexander, former Titans defensive back LeShaun Simms and former Canadian Football League star Winston Rose, in addition to Waynes.
“We’ve got a better overall sense of our defense and who we have on that side of the ball, and … we’ve added some players there at the corner position that will be able to compete,” Taylor said. “It’ll be fun to watch them play. But again, those guys are all hungry for an opportunity. We’ll see what we have there at that spot here, starting next week when we get to go live.”
Taylor said Alexander “is a heck of a nickel” corner, but can play on the outside, too, if needed. Alexander is a solid tackler with great pattern recognition and good energy, according to Taylor, but defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo seems just as excited about Sims and Rose.
Sims has gained most of his experience on special teams but played 30 percent of the defensive snaps with Tennessee last year, his fourth season in the league. Rose originally signed with the Rams as an undrafted college free agent in 2016 but was waived by May. He spent the last three seasons in the CFL, including helping the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win the Grey Cup title in 2019. He played in all 18 of the Blue Bombers' games last season and earned CFL All-Star honors after recording a league-best nine interceptions.
“Don’t sleep on LeSahun Sims; don’t sleep on Winston Rose,” Anarumo said last week. “Those guys are guys that have been successful. Winston up in Canada, having all those interceptions the last couple of years. LeShaun Sims has played meaningful football in big games. They’re all big guys. They all have length to them. It’s exciting.”
The Bengals have a full month before their first game, set to take place Sept. 13 at home against the L.A. Chargers, so Taylor is confident the players will get enough reps to show who is best suited to replace Waynes.
Taylor is still hopeful Waynes will return sooner than later, especially since the Bengals haven’t gotten a chance yet to see what he can too in a live situation. Cincinnati will put helmets on for the first time Thursday and the first padded practice is set for Sunday, Taylor said.
“I know he’s excited to get on the field and meet with his new team, and not necessarily prove himself, but just show why he’s here and why we’re counting on him and so you feel bad anytime like this happens to any player this early in training camp,” Taylor said. “He will rebound and when he comes back we’ll be counting on him, and in the meantime we have great competition there at the corner spot and it will be fun to see how it plays out in training camp.”