Running back Kenny Watson was let go Saturday, making the seventh-year player a free agent. Watson has been a valuable player in his role as a third-down back and on special teams throughout his career with the Bengals but he missed last week’s game against Cleveland with a hamstring injury, an injury that kept him out of practice most of this past week as well.
Head coach Marvin Lewis said on Friday that Watson would be an unlikely participant against Dallas but that he had a good chance to return to practice next week in preparation for the team’s game at the New York Jets on Oct. 12. Instead, the team will go with just two halfbacks on the roster: starter Chris Perry and former Chicago Bears first-round pick Cedric Benson, who was signed as a free agent this past week. The Bengals also have rookie James Johnson on their practice squad.
The Bengals would have the option of re-signing Watson at any point in the future if he does not sign with another team.
Watson had run the ball just seven times in three games, gaining 32 yards to go along with two receptions for three yards. Watson led the Bengals in rushing in 2007 with 763 yards as he assumed a greater role in the offense due to injuries to Rudi Johnson and Perry. The Bengals released Rudi Johnson, the team’s No. 1 rusher from 2003-06, as part of their final cuts not only because Johnson was hampered by a hamstring injury throughout the preseason but also because of their comfort level with Watson.
The addition of Henry to the roster gives the Bengals seven wide receivers among their 53 players, although rookies Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell have offered nothing in terms of game-day production as neither has caught a pass yet. Besides starters T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco, Antonio Chatman is the only other Cincinnati wide receiver to catch a pass during the first month of the season.
Chatman has 10 catches for 118 yards as well as averaging 10.3 yards on nine punt returns, good for ninth in the NFL. Glenn Holt, the other wide receiver on the roster, is averaging 26.2 yards on kickoffs, 11th best in the league.
Henry is coming off a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s player conduct policy. The Bengals had released Henry on April 3 following his arrest on assault charges in Cincinnati after the case was dismissed when Henry’s trial ended in a hung jury, with six of eight jurors voting to acquit him, the team re-signed him in August.
The Bengals selected Henry in the third round of the 2005 draft. He has 88 career receptions for 1,370 yards and 17 touchdowns but that production has been overshadowed by his troubles off of the field; he has been arrested five times and three times he has served league-mandated suspensions.