Who Are the Best UDFA Signings in Cincinnati Bengals History?

The list of the best free agents in Cincinnati Bengals history includes a kicker, a punt returner and a future head coach.

CINCINNATI – With the Cincinnati Bengals set to officially announce their 2024 class of undrafted free agents next week, let’s take a look at some of the best players in franchise history who did not hear their name called in the NFL Draft.

Six players entered the league undrafted and started at least one game for the Bengals in 2023. Cornerback Mike Hilton led the list with 13 starts, while quarterback Jake Browning was next with seven.

But they are not eligible for this list because they didn’t arrive in Cincinnati until several years after entering the league with another team.

Ranking the Bengals’ Best UDFA Signings

Here are the top 10 undrafted players who started — and played most of — their careers with the Bengals.

10) Andrew Hawkins, WR

Originally signed by the Los Angeles Rams out of the University of Toledo, Hawkins was waived within months and picked up by the Bengals.

In his three seasons in Cincinnati, Hawkins had 86 catches for 995 yards and four touchdowns while appearing in 35 games with two starts.

He joined the Cleveland Browns in 2014 after the Bengals declined to match the offer, and Hawkins had 123 catches for 1,424 yards and five touchdowns for Cleveland.

9) Adrian Ross, LB

The Colorado State product played six seasons in Cincinnati for three different head coaches from 1998-2003.

He appeared in 90 games with 34 starts and had his best performance in the final year of his career in 2003, Marvin Lewis’ first season as head coach.

Ross recorded career highs in starts (12), forced fumbles (two), passes defended (three) and tackles (57).

8) Bruce Coslet, TE

Coslet is one of two UDFAs who signed with the Bengals and went on to be the team’s head coach, joining Sam Wyche.

A tight end out of Pacific University, Coslet appeared in 101 games in his eight-year career from 1969-76, all of which were in Cincinnati. He only missed 11 games in that span.

It’s his longevity more than his production that lands him on this list, as he mostly was a blocker and special teams player, finishing with just 61 receptions for 878 yards and nine touchdowns.

Coslet’s best season was in 1971 when he recorded 21 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns, all of which would stand as career highs.

7) Horst Muhlmann, K

A native of Germany and one of two players in Bengals history who never played in college, Muhlmann spent six seasons in Cincinnati from 1969-74. Scottish kicker Ian Sunter was the other — if you want to try to win a bar bet.

Muhlmann remains fifth in franchise history for career extra points (189), career field goals (120), and career points scored (549). He once made 101 consecutive PATs, which is the third-longest streak in team history.

His 27 field goals in 1972 were tied for third most in the league.

It’s worth noting there were 442 players drafted in 1969, compared to 257 this year.

6) Kyle Cook, C

Undrafted out of Michigan State in 2007, Cook originally signed with the Vikings but was released on cutdown day. The Bengals added him to their practice squad a few days later, and Cook went on to play in 73 games with 66 starts in six seasons in Cincinnati.

After playing most on special teams in 2008, Cook was the starting center on the 2009 team that swept the AFC North and won the division. He also started all 16 games on the 2011 and 2013 playoff teams.

5) Alex Erickson, WR/PR

An undersized receiver out of Wisconsin at 6 feet, 190 pounds, Erickson’s best chance to make the team after signing as an undrafted college free agent in 2016 was going to be on special teams.

In his first preseason game, Erickson returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown to kickstart his career (he also caught a three-yard touchdown pass in that game).

Erickson spent five seasons in Cincinnati, appearing in 80 games with 14 starts. He finished his Bengals career with 93 catches for 1,096 yards and one touchdown.

He never returned a punt for a touchdown in a regular-season game, but his 1,074 return yards are a franchise record, and his 135 attempts rank third.

Erickson is still active. He played for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2023.

4) Trey Hopkins, C

May 12 will mark the 10th anniversary of Hopkins signing with the Bengals as a UDFA out of Texas.

In his six seasons with the Bengals, Hopkins made 67 starts, which is the third most in team history by any undrafted player and second most by a UDFA who first signed with Cincinnati.

Hopkins started 46 of a possible 48 games from 2019-21, and he was the starting center for all four postseason games in his final season, including Super Bowl LVI.

3) Kevin Kaesviharn, CB

Plucked from tiny Augustana University in South Dakota in 2001, Kaesviharn played six seasons in Cincinnati, appearing in 87 games with 44 starts.

He started all 16 games in 2005 when the Bengals won the AFC North to break their playoff drought. In 2006, Kaesviharn led the team in interceptions (with six) while also recording a career-high four sacks.

His 15 career interceptions in Cincinnati are the 11th most in team history.

He played another three seasons for the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans after leaving the Bengals.

2) Vinny Rey, LB

Rey signed with the Bengals out of Duke in 2010, and he went on to play nine seasons with Cincinnati, appearing in 128 games with 50 starts. The 128 games are the most by any UDFA who ever played for Cincinnati, regardless of when they joined the team.

In 2014, when the Bengals made their fourth consecutive playoff appearance, Rey started a career-high 13 games and led the team in tackles with 121.

During the 2013 division championship season, he recorded a career-high four sacks while also ranking second on the team in special teams snaps.

Rey retired after the 2018 season but remains involved with the Bengals as the team chaplain.

1) Vontaze Burfict, LB

The Arizona State product came into the league in 2012 with first-round talent and a fleet of red flags.

Burfict was a dominant linebacker for much of his seven seasons in Cincinnati, and he remains the team’s only UDFA signing to make a Pro Bowl, doing so in 2013 when he led the league with 171 tackles. That includes three sacks that would stand as his career high.

His 73 starts are the most by a UDFA who originally signed with the Bengals.

But Burfict also was among the league leaders in fines and penalties during his time with the Bengals, and things got progressively worse after his hit on Antonio Brown in the 2015 Wild Card Round, resulting in a three-game suspension.

He played four games for the Raiders in 2019 after leaving the Bengals, but he was suspended for the rest of the season after a head-hunting hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle. Burfict never appeared in another game.

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