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Bengals cut DE Michael Johnson, but it might not be the end

Michael Johnson has been a mainstay on the defensive line since he returned to the Bengals in 2015. Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

The Cincinnati Bengals parted ways with 28 players Saturday, trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players. Here's a closer look at the final cuts:

Most significant move: The Bengals released longtime defensive end Michael Johnson, and if he doesn't end up re-signing with the team, it would be another move in a line of surprising cuts the Bengals have made this year. They parted ways with cornerback Adam Jones and released veterans George Iloka and Brandon LaFell. Considering the Bengals have typically kept their veterans through their entire contracts, it's a departure from how they have operated in the past. But this isn't necessarily the end, as Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said any of the three vested veterans released Saturday have the opportunity to come back. That means it might not be the end of Johnson's time in Cincinnati.

"Michael ... is one of those pillars that has been here and has given everything he can to this building," Lewis said. "Those are tough decisions and tough conversations to have."

More moves to come?: The Bengals must carry anyone they would like to designate as eligible to return from injured reserve on their initial 53-man roster. That means there will be more roster moves ahead in the coming days, probably at wide receiver and defensive line. Lewis said they'll look to finalize their roster or be close to finalizing it by Monday.

The Bengals have seven wide receivers and only eight defensive linemen. Wide receiver Cody Core is dealing with an injury, but is "on the mend," according to Lewis so he could be a candidate to go on IR and return down the line. Rookie seventh-round pick Auden Tate made the initial roster, but it's possible he gets waived and moved to the practice squad.

Getting younger: The Bengals seem to have made a commitment to getting younger after parting ways with some of their older veterans. Only six players on the 53-man roster as of Saturday are 30 or older, and two of those players are specialists. With two large draft classes in 2017 and 2018, it's not surprising that the average age of the roster would drop significantly. Lewis said the Bengals' analytics has shown the team is faster as a whole as well and joked that 28-year-old practice squad candidate C.J Goodwin would actually make the roster age go up if he is signed to the active roster.

"We are a very young football team, but one that's played a lot of football. I think that's the thing you've got to look at," Lewis said. "[We] have [Andy] Dalton, [A.J.] Green, [Clint] Boling and these guys who have played and started so much football and played so long here throughout their careers, and then you go to [Dre] Kirkpatrick, the next guy. They've played a lot of football, and then you bring Cordy [Glenn] in and at the back end of that would be Preston Brown. They're young in years and in their prime of what their careers are about, and they've played a lot of winning football. They're hungry and have been disappointed in the way we've finished the seasons the last two years, and we've got to go back and win a championship."

Bengals' moves: Released: H-B Ryan Hewitt, C T.J. Johnson, DE Michael Johnson; Injured reserve: TE Cethan Carter, QB Matt Barkley, S Trayvon Henderson; Reserve/Suspended: LB Vontaze Burfict; Waived: LB Brandon Bell, S Tyrice Beverette, TE Moritz B√∂hringer, WR Devonte Boyd, DT Andrew Brown, K Jonathan Brown, RB Quinton Flowers, H-B Jordan Franks, CB C.J. Goodwin, RB Brian Hill, LB Junior Joseph, C Brad Lundblade, WR Jared Murphy, OT Justin Murray (first-year player, Cincinnati); OT Kent Perkins, DT Simeyon Robinson, WR Kayaune Ross, CB KeiVarae Russell, WR Ka’Raun White, WR Kermit Whitfield, DT Eddy Wilson, QB Logan Woodside, LB Chris Worley; Waived/Injured: DT Chris Okoye, S Josh Shaw