It shouldn’t exactly be a surprise to hear that an NFL team has released a young player who hasn’t contributed much after he was arrested for the third time in one offseason before the draft even takes place, but when the team in question is the Cincinnati Bengals, it actually is a bit more significant, given their history of sticking with players through legal troubles.
The Bengals officially waived second-year running back Mark Walton yesterday after he turned himself in to police Thursday. There was a warrant out for his arrest stemming from a March 12 incident in which he was pulled over by police and later successfully fled on foot after pulling taser barbs out. He was charged with possession of marijuana among other more serious charges.
Walton was a fourth-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Miami, but he played only sparsely behind Joe Mixon, the team’s starter as a former 2017 second-round pick, and Giovanni Bernard, a six-year veteran who is on his second contract with the organization after being selected in the second round in 2013.
“It’s important for our team to get off to a fresh start as we begin the 2019 season”, new Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor said in a statement regarding the roster move. “For that reason, we felt it best if we move forward without Mark Walton. We hope his situation gets resolved, but we don’t want to take anything away from the good work that so many other players have already begun to demonstrate”.
Another player that they felt it best to move forward without this offseason was former Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who in spite of a lack of off-field incidents has had plenty of on-field incidents that have literally cost him millions over the years due to fines and suspensions. One suspension was due to performance-enhancing drugs as well.
Such moves dramatically shift the character of the organization that was codified under the watch of former Head Coach Marvin Lewis, who patrolled the sidelines from 2003 up through last season.
Though it was ultimately owner Mike Brown making the decisions—he personally vouched for Adam Jones after a polarizing arrest and signed off on drafting Mixon, for example—Lewis was also seen as a central figure in the organization providing a second home for a number of athletes who have had legal troubles other teams would not touch.
All of that led to three straight losing records at the end of Lewis’ career, following which he and the organization mutually agreed to part ways, bringing in Taylor, who had previously been the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams, the team that just reached the Super Bowl representing the NFC.
The Bengals have 11 draft picks available later this month, somehow having stockpiled five in the sixth round, so it’s quite likely that they will address the running back position to replace Walton.